Night of Pan, by Gail Strickland
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Date of Release: November 7, 2014
Series: Book One of The Oracle of Delphi Trilogy
Cover Artist: Ricky Gunawan
The slaughter of the Spartan Three Hundred at Thermopylae, Greece 480 BCE—when King Leonidas tried to stop the Persian army with only his elite guard—is well known. But just what did King Xerxes do after he defeated the Greeks?
Fifteen-year-old Thaleia is haunted by visions: roofs dripping blood, Athens burning. She tries to convince her best friend and all the villagers that she’s not crazy. The gods do speak to her.
And the gods have plans for this girl.
When Xerxes’ army of a million Persians marches straight to the mountain village Delphi to claim the Temple of Apollo’s treasures and sacred power, Thaleia’s gift may be her people’s last line of defense.
Her destiny may be to save Greece…
…but is one girl strong enough to stop an entire army?
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About The Author:
While studying the Classics in college, Gail Strickland translated much of Homer’s ILIAD and ODYSSEY, Herodotus’ prophecies and THE BACCHAI by Euripides. Living on the Greek islands after college, she discovered her love of myth, the wine-dark sea and retsina.
THE BALTIMORE REVIEW and WRITER’S DIGEST have recognized Gail’s fiction. She published stories and poems in Travelers’ Tales’ anthologies and the San Francisco Writer’s anthology. Her poetry and photography were published in a collection called CLUTTER.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Gail grew up in Northern California. She raised her children; was a musical director for CAT children’s theater; taught music in schools; mentored young poets and novelists and introduced thousands of youngsters to piano and Greek mythology. Gail is passionate about bringing the richness of Homer’s language and culture to today’s youth.
Find Gail Strickland Online:
I whirl around, stare into the pines. Strain to glimpse him. To hear his hoof sharp against the mountain’s climbing boulders. Nothing. Did I imagine the satyr-god?
Drawing his flute to my lips, I blow one soft, tentative note, high and gentle. It is filled with unexpected sweetness. A sweetness so urgent, I sink to my knees in the limp grass; stroke the smooth pipes with trembling fingers, slowly over each rounded reed then again… again. My hand seems to move of its own accord.
My heart fills with yearning—a desire that seeps from the pipes, from me. From the solitude I feel as I sit and wait and listen for Pan. Remembering how he pried open my fingers and at the same time my heart and left behind hollow reeds. Simple dry grasses left long in the sun, until their parched skin contains the music’s longing, the music’s passion.
I look around the clearing. A poppy, limp at my side, touches my knee. Its stem is bent. The flowers trampled.
The wind feeds the flames. They lick the thick tree trunk. Dry needles drop like fireflies. The day darkens to twilight, while I wait. For Sophia? For Pan? I only know I don’t want to leave.
At last, slow and cautious, I work my way down the mountain, sliding between wet rocks, until once again I find the goat’s path. The well-beaten trail gives me confidence. I run its familiar track back to the opening of the small cave and peer in. There are the red cloth bundles of dried olives, nuts and cheeses Sophia stole for me. “Sophia?”
No answer. The cave is cold. Empty. “Where are you? I need you.” My words echo off the stone. I sink to the hard floor. Pull a charred stick from the embers and draw Pan—horns, hooves, and his barrel-chest. My drawing smiles back at me as if to ask: Well, what are you going to do?
I stare at the panpipes in my left hand. They feel like a living thing against my skin, tingling with breath and heartbeat… magic?
But Pan? Papa told me stories about the satyr to be sure I behaved. Never wander alone up the mountain.
Of course I always did.
Pan will find you. It’s not safe. Papa’s voice, rough with warning, always thrilled me like a call to adventure.
I remember Pan’s fingernail tracing up the inside of my arm. A shiver courses from my toes to my scalp.
Deep in the cave, water drips. Bats scuttle. Wind moans through a crevice like the Sirens. Time eddies as calm and smooth as a mountain pond that waits for a deer or wildcat or a shepherd’s child to disturb the waters, to create ripples that flow to the other shore.
The panpipes rest quiet and alive in my palm as if waiting for me to decide. Do I run away like I planned?
Fire rushes through my body. I’m consumed with doubt and hope and determination. Like a fierce passion, demonic Atesweeps over me, madness that steals my breath and fills me with power and desire. With all my heart, I want to leave behind Delphi, my parents’ anger and their arranged marriage. Marriage to Brygos! I only want to turn my back on them all and never return… but in that instant, I know I won’t. I won’t run away. I will face Papa and the villagers and that horrible priest. With certainty I know that I can’t turn back. Call it destiny if that’s a name for it. I’d rather call it love. For Pan? Power? I’m not sure. I only know that the moment the god touched me, there was no turning back.
Pan’s syrinx, the flute that summoned me, sings one low note. A sigh. I stand up and walk to the cave entrance. It’s night. There’s a half moon. I wonder if Papa’s looking for me? AndDiokles? It doesn’t matter. This is Pan’s will—diosd’eteleitou boule—the god’s will is accomplished. And what is my destiny? I can’t imagine, but I know the mountain always called to me. The crags and ancient trees, meadow flowers and sparrows… was it Pan all along? Was it always the satyr who brought me from my home up the wild mountain paths?
I run to the edge of the village. Beneath the berry arch besideApollinaria’s clay oven, I sink to my knees, uncertain I want to walk the path to my front door, past the lanterns lit for the night, each doorway glowing a welcome, daring me to return home.
A branch cracks. I whirl around to face Pan.