I thought I would share the first chapter from my debut novel, The Way Home, Book I of the Ashes of Olympus trilogy. I hope you enjoy it!
Illustration by Matt Wolf
‘Aeneas, for the love of the gods, open up!’ cried Sergestos, pounding on the front door.
Aeneas ran to the door and wrenched it open. ‘Stop yelling, would you? My father will flay me if you wake him.’ He stopped short as he realised Sergestos’s round face was covered in soot and reeked of smoke. The scholar wore a studded baldric over his tunic. ‘What’s happened?’
‘It’s the Greeks, they’re here.’
Aeneas swore. ‘Let me get my gear. I’ll be at the main gate in—’
Sergestos shook his head. ‘Aeneas, they’re here. Inside the walls.’
Aeneas staggered. The sea god had built the walls himself. They stood over forty cubits tall. No mortal power could break them.
‘What? How can that be? They sailed home yesterday.’
Sergestos shrugged. ‘Something to do with that horse. Point is, half the city’s in flames.’
Aeneas rushed upstairs to see for himself, and Sergestos followed.
All his life Aeneas had loved to look down upon the city, to gaze at the twinkling lanterns in the streets. Now thatched rooftops were alight, the flames glaring like eyes in the night. The fire was spreading from the outer city, where the peasants lived. The screaming echoed heavenward. He blinked sweat out of his eyes, straining to peer past the flames. Far off, the city gate gaped like an open wound. Column after column of Greek warriors passed through, hungry to pillage the defenceless Troy. They were making a beeline toward the palace, marching up the main road. The bronze of their helmets and armour glistened in the burning.
What in Hades was going on? Somebody should have rung the warning bell. This wasn’t a battle. It was defeat, the end of everything. The thought twisted in his belly like a knife.
‘Daddy?’ Little Julos waddled out of his bedchamber at the foot of the stair, rubbing his eyes. His curls were tousled with sleep.
‘Hey, little man,’ said Aeneas. ‘Where’s Mummy?’
‘I’m here,’ said Kreusa. ‘Has something happened?’ She emerged from the bedchamber opposite Julos’s, tying her hair back with one hand. Looking up, she saw the embers spiralling into the sky. ‘The city,’ she breathed.
Sergestos swallowed. ‘Gods help us, our training never prepared us for this. Troy has fallen.’
Aeneas shook his head and jutted his jaw. ‘Not yet. Not if we save the king.’
Sergestos glanced from Kreusa to Aeneas. ‘Right. See you shortly, then.’ He clapped Aeneas on the shoulder and bolted down the stairs past Julos and out the door.
Tightening her lips, Kreusa beckoned Aeneas downstairs and into their bedchamber. ‘Julos, wait in your bedchamber, please. I won’t be long.’
‘It’ll be fine, son,’ said Aeneas.
Kreusa passed Aeneas his sword belt, her hands steady.
He buckled it to his side, put on his leather jerkin. Aeneas glanced up at his polished helmet and breastplate mounted on the wall. Father had given them to him for his eighteenth birthday last year. No self-respecting warrior would go into a fight without full armour, but there was no time.
Father gave a snore from down the hall.
‘I’ll get him up,’ Kreusa said, reading Aeneas’s mind. Julos padded into their bedchamber, slurping on his fingers, and she scooped him into her arms. ‘Go on. We’ll be fine.’ Kreusa looked him in the eye, resolute.
Aeneas had always loved Kreusa for her ability to take charge, right from their betrothal day. He reached for her and Julos.
Kreusa kissed him once, hard, on the mouth. Then she pushed him away gently. ‘There’ll be time later. You need to go,’ she whispered. ‘Please, love. Just go. And if you run into enemy gods, stay out of their way.’ Kreusa turned, but it didn’t hide the tear streaking down her cheek. She swept out of the chamber, holding their son tight. Julos peeked over her shoulder at Aeneas, eyes wide and green as his father’s.
Aeneas stared after them for a moment, then shook himself. Kreusa was right, he’d wasted enough time already. He snatched up his gear on his way out, found the weight of his spear a familiar comfort. The leathery smell of his ox-hide shield reassured him it was ready to protect.
Taking a deep breath, he passed over his doorstep.
I hope you enjoyed Chapter 1. In the meantime, The Way Home is available via the online store of your choice!
Until next time,