Saturday, 26 October 2013

EXCERPT: The Oracles of Troy by Glyn Iliffe

Yesterday I posted a Q&A and Giveaway opportunity for the release of Glyn Iliffe's brand new book in his Adventures of Odysseus series! Today we are lucky enough to be able to post an incredible excerpt from the book for you! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 

UK Readers - Amazon UK
US Readers -  Amazon US


Helen awoke with a feeling of expectancy. The dawn light was barely filtering through the curtains when she threw aside her blankets and called for her maids. Sitting at the edge of her bed, she wondered what it was that felt so different. There were no new sounds drifting in through the window, nor could she smell anything out of the ordinary that might be warning her senses. If something had altered in the world, then she had sensed it from within: a gut feeling that told her the day was going to be unlike any other.
She yawned and ran her toes through the thick fur. Where were her maids? For as long as she had lived in Troy, her maids had slept at the threshold to her room ready to answer the mere sound of her voice. Suddenly, she clutched a hand to her chest and wondered whether they had been taken. It was a fear that had stalked her ever since she had sent them to drug the guards at the temple of Athena, the night the Palladium had been stolen. In using them so recklessly to help Odysseus she had risked implicating herself in the theft, a treacherous act punishable by execution – and an outcome which even her beauty and status could not have saved her from. Instead the temple guards had paid that price, slaughtered without hesitation on Deiphobus’s orders for failing in their duty. Their quick deaths meant they had not had time to consider their wine might have been drugged, or add to this the fact the wine had been brought to them by Helen’s maids. And yet Helen still lived in dread, not that her maids would betray her but that other eyes may have seen them visiting the guards.
She stood and quickly dressed herself. Glancing back across the room, she saw that Deiphobus’s half of the large bed – the same bed she had once shared with his brother, and which held such sweet memories for her – had not been slept in. This was not unusual, as the prince would often sleep in his old quarters after a late night discussing the war with his father and the other commanders. He also knew Helen did not love him, though the knowledge did not prevent him coming to her when his lust urged. The thought deepened the frown already on her brow, and throwing her cloak around her shoulders she hurried out of the room.
She found all four of her maids on the walls of the citadel, pressed against the battlements and talking excitedly as they looked southwards.
‘So, here you are!’ Helen snapped, climbing the stone steps. ‘I have to dress myself because you’d rather be on the walls gossiping among yourselves.’
‘But my lady,’ one of the maids began.
‘My lady nothing. Get back inside, at once!’
The girls exchanged guilty looks, then after a last glance over the ramparts fled down the steps and in the direction of the palace.
Helen waited until they were out of sight, then her curiosity gaining the better of her she ran up the last few steps to see for herself what had dragged her maids away from their duties. Reaching the parapet, she looked first to the large bay lying a bowshot from the city walls. Empty, as was the sea beyond the jaws of its entrance. But she had already glimpsed the thing that had brought the four girls to the walls, and as she turned her head south she realised this was the source of the strange feeling that had woken her from her dreams. On top of the ridge that frowned over the weaving line of the Scamander, a short distance west of the temple of Thymbrean Apollo, was the gigantic figure of a horse. It stood higher than the plane trees that formed the temple – much higher – and as the light of the rising sun fell on its motionless flanks, she could see that it was made entirely of wood. Each of its long limbs was as tall as two men, and together they supported a barrel-like torso that had been skilfully crafted to follow the lines and curves of a horse’s body. From its hind quarters a shower of leather strips cascaded down to the ground in mimicry of a tail, while rising up from its shoulders was a broad neck crested by a dense mane of leather bands that twisted in the wind. The head was large with a wide forehead that tapered down to its flared nostrils and bared teeth. Its chin rested on its chest and its stern eyes glowered at the walls of Troy, as if willing them to crumble and fall. The whole impressive edifice stood upon a broad platform with four solid wheels on either side, each wheel twice as big as those of a chariot or farmer’s cart.
Helen leaned against the cold stone parapet and stared in disbelief. In the distance behind the horse, columns of black smoke spiralled up into the skies over the Greek camp, forming scars against the blue firmament that spoke of change and a doom yet to be revealed. As she watched, wondering what the appearance of the horse might mean and where it had come from, she saw a troop of cavalry moving out from the city and galloping across the plain. Perhaps twenty men in all, they trotted over the fords of the Scamander and dashed up the slope towards the great structure above. At last, Helen began to hear shouts from the city, spreading with rapid inevitability towards Pergamos. More people – slaves and soldiers, artisans and nobles – were running up to the walls to look out at the strange new monument. At that moment Helen knew she had to see the horse for herself, not from the battlements but where it stood on the ridge.
She ran down the steps and back to the open space before the palace. As she had expected, horses and chariots were being prepared for the journey to the ridge. Priam’s golden chariot was standing ready with Idaeus at the rail, his whip in his hand as he waited for the king to arrive. There, too, was Deiphobus’s chariot. The prince stood in front of the horses, patting their necks and talking to them.
‘Take me with you,’ Helen said, running across the trampled dirt of the courtyard and laying her arms around her husband’s neck. ‘I want to see this magnificent horse.’
Deiphobus looked at her a moment, then shook his head.
‘It could be dangerous.’
She smiled playfully, surprising him. ‘Do you think it’ll bite me?’
‘I mean it could be a lure – the bait to draw us into a trap.’
‘Am I any more important than Priam? If the king is going, then surely it’s safe enough for me to go too? Besides, there’s already a troop of cavalry up there – they would have spotted any immediate danger.’ Seeing the doubt in his eyes, she leaned across and kissed him. ‘I promise I’ll stay close to you.’
His gaze wandered over her again. Although she had not received the usual attentions of her maids that morning, her natural beauty was more than powerful enough to break down his resistance. He nodded and helped her up into the chariot.

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