A hidden prophecy. A chosen princess who speaks with snakes. A family duty.
Sixteen year old Princess Antigone, daughter of the infamous ancient Greek King Oedipus, wants to lead a normal life and fulfill her duty to the gods, her city, and her family, but fate has other plans. The Olympian gods bless her, the snakes talk to her, her parents want her to marry a foreign prince, her embroidery looks like burial shrouds for dogs, and she has fallen in love with the wrong boy.
When the mysterious and devastating prophecies surrounding her family are revealed, Antigone must choose where her allegiance lies: With the gods who have betrayed her family but who she is obliged to serve? With her plague ridden city? With her family which lay in ruins? Or even with herself?
In Prophecy, Book One of the Antigone: The True Story series, Antigone steps out of the shadows of the past to tell her own story, a story where truth of history is stranger than the fiction of myth.
Targeted Age Group:: young adult and up
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I have a passion for Greek myth and love reading modern retellings of old stories. I thought Antigone would be fun to write about, so decided to sit down and see what she had to say. Turns out, there was a lot.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I have always loved the character of Antigone. She’s the daughter of Oedipus, famous in Greek myth for killing his father and marrying his mother, then blinding himself when he found out. Antigone is a wonderfully strong character and I wanted to bring her to life for a modern audience.
As a princess of Thebes, my life was set out before me: learn to sew and run a household, then get married, ideally creating a beneficial political alliance for the state. Basically, be a good girl, do what I was told, and fulfill my duty to my family, my city, and the gods. Before the dreams started I was barely getting by. After the gods started visiting me regularly, I failed miserably.
The divine visions began when I was sixteen. Even though it was over three thousand years ago, the hair on the back of my neck still tingles when I think of how the gods manipulated me, how the snakes reached out to me, how I learned about the curses that plagued my family, and how I came to realize my true power. My family was a plaything for the gods, curses were tossed around carelessly like a worn out ball, kicked aimlessly for heavenly amusement.
In my first dream-vision, I approached the temple of Apollo with a modest offering — some cakes, fruit, and a small jug of wine — the usual. The gods were a big part of our lives back then, and we provided regular offerings in the hopes that they would look favourably on us. Though such contributions were no guarantee of divine goodwill, they were certainly a step in the right direction. The gods had a nasty habit of making life miserable for those who displeased them. Sometimes really miserable. Nobody does vengeance like a slighted Olympian god. Just look at how Artemis, Apollo’s twin sister, sent a monstrous, murderous boar to ravage and terrorize the Calydon countryside when King Oeneus neglected to honour her during the annual harvest ceremonies, as was her due. Enough said.
In my dream I walked along the road to the temple, a building which dominated from Thebes’ highest point atop the acropolis, overlooking the walled city and its seven gates like a watchful parent. The ordinarily easy and gradual incline grew steep, far steeper than normal. The well worn path became a treacherous uphill scramble as my smooth leather sandals slipped and I lost my footing. Knowing that I had to present my offering to Apollo, I dug in my toes and persisted through my fear and confusion. I was determined. The gods demanded their due and it was my duty to deliver it.
The temple became virtually unreachable and I was forced to my hands and knees, finessing each precious hand and foothold like a mountain goat, clutching the offering basket in one hand and pulling myself up with the other. I clung to the rocks of the sharp cliff face until my nails broke and my hands were scraped raw. My peplos robe ripped; mud, blood, and sweat stained the white, intricately embroidered fabric. Branches tugged at me, scratched me, and yanked at the jewelled combs that confined my hair in its tight knot until they were yanked out and clattered down the steep slope and my dark curls fell in my face, nearly blinding me. Even so, I continued climbing inch by agonizing inch. I had to get to the altar.
Struggling, I reached the bottom wooden step just as the hill fell away into a nearly vertical rock face. Grasping the stair just in time, I avoided a deadly tumble down the cliff after my shattered combs. I swung my arm to fling the offering basket and heard it crash as the contents hit the unforgiving wood. Finally free to use both hands, I strained every muscle to drag myself the rest of the way up and over the edge. As I lay on the stair, smooth and polished from years of footfalls, I caught my breath and thanked the gods to be alive. Then I examined my torn nails and dress, and ran my hands through my dishevelled hair. It crossed my mind that Sandrine, my personal slave and nurse, would kill me if she saw me like this.
A huge snake slithered through my spilled offering. I sprang to my feet and gasped in recognition as the temple python drew closer, eyeing me as if I were a potential meal. I had only ever seen it inside the temple, its massive bulk stacked in powerful, heaping coils. Now, the unmistakable albino python, ghostly white with caramel and burnt orange coloured markings, stretched out to its full, muscular twenty feet, its width easily thicker than my legs. With little effort, it could wrap itself around my body and squeeze the life out of me me if it chose — I had nowhere to run except to plunge from the cliff edge to certain death. I froze and stared into the cold, reptilian eyes. Nothing moved. I was like a mouse that had been cornered by a cat. Would the serpent toy with me leisurely or kill me quickly?
As I watched, the snake’s eyes changed. The albino pink darkened into rich hazel brown and would have appeared human if not for the long, dark, vertical slits of the pupils. The snake examined my soul for a dream-like eternity. Intuitively, I knew that it was the god Apollo who looked at me though those emotionless, inhuman eyes. Every nerve ending from my toes to my scalp electrified, rooting me in place.
The snake broke our connection first. It hissed and flicked its forked tongue, smelling my fear. “You dare to ruin my offering,” the sacred snake spat. It swung its tail through the smashed cakes, spoiled fruit, and shattered jug, scattering the contents.
“I-I-I…” Beads of sweat dripped down through the dust on my face and I clenched my dirty hands together to stop them from trembling. It was pointless to argue with the gods or to come up with excuses, no matter how valid. The god didn’t care about my perilous journey up the hillside and I would undoubtedly, justifiably in Apollo’s eyes, be punished for this insult. After all, I had ruined the offering. I fell to my knees in front of the snake, not even trying to protect myself. My only hope was that he would accept my penance. “I didn’t mean to, Lord Apollo. Please forgive me. I will replace the offering, double it even.”
I bowed my head, eyes averted from the snake. My stomach fluttered anxiously as anticipation stole my breath and I braced for the worst, fully expecting the snake to strike me at any moment, to have my life squeezed away in the deadly coil of the snake’s body. The floor beneath me swirled and my chest screamed for fresh air. I exhaled deliberately to steady myself.
The snake remained statue still for a full minute before I sensed it stir. I looked up. It nodded then turned and slithered past the stone altar toward the inside of the temple.
“You recognize me and are pious. Come,” it demanded.
I followed the snake, stunned and grateful not to have found myself in its belly. As we entered the cool of the temple, the imposing statue of Apollo loomed over us, its colourfully painted wooden form standing at least twelve feet high. The life-like brown eyes, uncannily reproduced in the python’s, stalked me as I shuffled over to the hole near the base of the statue that the sacred python called home. It was eerily silent in the temple, not even any of the normally ever-present priests hovered around, going about their duties. Still, I felt a sense of comfort which put me at ease, like I belonged there, and the knot in my stomach loosened slightly. The familiarity of the temple and the statue reassured me, like coming into the safety of my own bedroom. If the snake’s intention had been to kill me, it could have done so without difficulty outside. Surely a god would not strike me down in the sanctity of his own temple.
The python looped its immense bulk up slowly in a heavy spiral then eyed me carefully. “Do you know why you are here?”
“To bring an offering from my household,” I replied.
“No.” The snake flicked its tail. “Why I summoned you.”
“You summoned me?” Why would Apollo have wanted me? And under such mystifying circumstances.
“Of course. Why else would you be here? Your family is the subject of many oracles. Do you know what happens when humans attempt to outsmart the gods?”
“Nothing good,” I replied, brows furrowed. If the gods had given prophecies about my family, I didn’t know anything about them, which was strange because usually predictions from the gods were well known and celebrated. It was hard to imagine an oracle ever being hidden, even a terrible one. A shiver wound its way up my spine, chilling me to my core at the implications of what the god was suggesting; the knot in my stomach tightened like a noose.
“Exactly.” The snake contemplated me for a minute. “You may be able to help.”
“How?” The question escaped my mouth. My chest burst with pride at the prospect of helping the gods, of the prestige that this would bring, of maybe even adding to the glory of the heroic deeds preformed by my father.
“I expect obedience.”
“I will serve the gods however I can.”
“Everyone says that. But do you mean it? Really mean it?”
I opened my mouth to answer, but Apollo interrupted me. “Do not answer too quickly, girl. Think on this. The stain of blood on your family’s hands is substantial. I may ask something considerable of you. You need to listen to your heart. Are you strong enough? Others will have to live with the consequences of your actions, just as you have to live with the consequences of others’ actions. I am giving you a chance to back out now, without blame or shame or ill will. You will not be offered this chance again.”
What was he talking about? What blood was on my family’s hands? This was Apollo, an Olympian god, the son of Zeus, the Oracle himself. How could I refuse anything he requested? What would happen to me if I agreed and couldn’t fulfill my promise?
The laurel branch encircling Apollo’s head gave me my answer. That is what happened to those who spurned the gods. When Daphne went back on her promise to Apollo, he turned her into a laurel tree, a symbol he now used to crown himself with. Her shame became his glory. The lesson was clear: do not trifle with the gods, even by mistake.
The smart thing would be to take the reprieve that Apollo was granting me now, to decline his request without impunity, a chance I would never get again.
I knew what I would answer. What I had to answer.
Sweat dripped down my back, chilling me as it dampened my peplos. I swallowed in a vain attempt to quench my dry throat. My knees nearly buckled as I knelt, looking the colossal snake in the eye. It’s tongue darted out from between its razor sharp teeth and brushed against my cheek. “I will do what you ask, my lord, though I don’t know how I could possibly help one as great as you.” The words came from my heart and not my head.
The snake nodded its approval. “You can start by bringing me a proper sacrifice tomorrow. Something fit for a snake and not the priests who populate this temple.”
The giant python blinked and its eyes returned to their normal albino pink. The god was gone.
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