Bored? Trapped inside? Need an escape? Here’s the first chapter of The Korinniad, for your reading pleasure:
Sing, O muse, of that ancient land
Where heroes did toil and win,
And grant this scribe a passing glance
At the life of our heroine.
Thriving—or not!—amongst mortals,
Monsters, and many-numbered gods,
The tale of a simple maiden
With purpose and desire at odds.
Whilst neighboring kingdoms blindly
Teetered between treaty and war
Their deities’ interest grown weary
Pining to settle the score
We turn our sights to Korinna
Who, just before events went amok,
Unbeknownst set her tale in motion
With one word, her battle cry,
You have got to be kidding. Is that really how you mean to start?
What’s wrong with a little poem to—wait, who typed that?
Your muse, of course, who else?
Well, you only wrote it a few lines up. Me, Xanthippe, your muse.
Sorry, but I’ve never had my screen type back at me before. It’s just…you’re my muse? Really? Xanthippe isn’t the name of any muse I’ve ever heard of.
Awfully presumptuous of you to assume a muse that you’ve heard of would come at your beckoning, especially at that sorry excuse for poetry up there.
Hey, hold on just a minute, I—
Anyway, it’s not exactly your indecipherable meter or poor rhyme scheme I’m concerned with. It’s the swearing.
Oh, that? Well, begin as you intend to go on, right?
That’s how you intend to go on?
I mean, I don’t want the reader getting thirteen pages in and surprised with a “shit” or a “damn,” so…yeah?
Ugh, this is going to be one of those stories, isn’t it? Well, get on with it, I guess.
Aren’t you going to, like, help me?
I am helping—I’m here, aren’t I?
I just thought maybe you’d, ya know, inspire me? Maybe we could throw some ideas around? Brainstorm a bit? No? At least remind me where I was?
I believe it was something about a battle cry.
Korinna jumped away from the sloshing wine, but it managed to spill over the edge of the too-full pitcher and splatter her dress anyway. As a burgundy stain spread itself across the linen, she snorted: another chiton was about to end up a splotchy mess.
It seems quite insignificant, a pink dress, and perhaps it is now, but Korinna’s people believed in something that today might be call the Ripple Effect. Of course, everything was a bit more literal in those days as the metaphor was just beginning to be conceived of as a linguistic concept (Homer was just toddling around and learning words himself when Korinna fatefully splashed herself), so rather than a bit of rhetoric, we’re talking actual liquid here. The ripples in the wine that sloshed about when Korinna finally paid attention to the fact that she hadn’t been paying attention at all as she poured it, sent out a cosmic signal that disturbed a number of entities, monsters, men, and not least of all, the Moirai themselves.
Larger than everything yet invisible to the rest of us, even the gods, the three sisters who make up the Moirai exist across the entirety of the galaxy, but also somehow on their own little island that hops from one plane of existence to another. None of that quite makes sense, but then if it did, we wouldn’t be talking about divinity here, would we? Because the Isle of the Moirai is always moving about, no one can ever seek them out, not that it would be a particularly good or profitable idea to do so, but there are times when they can be happened upon or when they can happen upon others, so we do know that the place is a mound of glittering, black sand upon which three women work at a spinning wheel.
Each life on Gaia and elsewhere is spun on their wheel, measured and woven by their hands, and cut by their sheers. It is a tedious and unending job, but someone’s got to do it, else life would cease to exist (at least, that’s what we assume), so it’s more than understandable and, frankly, without retribution when mistakes are made. Especially when those mistakes are a result of said Ripple Effect, literal or otherwise.
As Lachesis, the middle Moirai sister, was measuring a number of strings that would become a more, well, to be quite honest, mediocre part of the Tapestry of Life, a bump from the nowhere surrounding the Isle hit her just on the middle of the back, and she dropped the threads. As with most stringy things, the threads decided to just completely screw her, bunching up with a number of other threads that, otherwise, they never would have, resulting in a Knot.
Now, up until this point, the Moirai had never experienced anything quite like this Knot. Sure, knots made themselves, and even sometimes had to be cut out, but this was not a knot, this was a Knot, and it was particularly odd. Clotho recoiled from her spinning wheel with a gasp at the sight (thus the wheel stopped for a short time resulting in a significant drop in the birthrate which mortals would conveniently explain away with a war), and Atropos’s shears froze in her hand (resulting in a few longer than average lives which triple digit survivors would attribute to either abstaining completely from sex or indulging to the point of immunity from all communicable diseases). The three sisters stared down at the Knot in a mix of bewilderment, disbelief, and awe. It was horrifying, of course, but also because of the nature of the threads of life which sparkled in a spectrum of colors that can only be seen by the Moirai and the mantis shrimp, it was sort of beautiful too.
Clotho immediately welled up, unsure what to do, Lachesis fumbled with the strings for a moment but only proved to tie them more tightly together, and finally Atropos lifted her shining scissors to it. Lachesis found reason first—she was often the one to get it together the quickest—and held up a hand, “I think we not ought change the Knot anymore.” It wasn’t time for any of those beholden to the threads to be snipped, not yet, and it was likely best to just let the Knot work itself out. That was what happened with most of the rest of them, after all, and really, who was going to tell them what to do? Certainly not the gods, even if a few of the threads involved were giving off that telltale immortal glow. And so, the Moirai backed away and returned to work, keeping an eye on the beautiful, horrifying Knot.
“By the mercy of the gods, girl, be more careful! And language!” Alanis slammed an open hand down on the table, flour puffing up around her.
“I am careful.” Korinna shot back, grabbing the cups so that wine nearly crested their edges before they clanked against the serving tray. “This is just a waste of my time.”
“Your time is worth what I say it is.” Alanis turned away from her, the ire in her voice subsiding as she chuckled. Wonderful, Korinna thought, she no longer roused anger from the woman, she had become purely amusing.
Using the hem of her chiton to wipe up the last of the spilled wine, Korinna put on a sing-songy tone, “If you’d just put me back on detail—”
“Oh, and let your creativity overflow again?” Alanis spun back and thrust her massive hands onto her even more massive hips. “I think not! You’ll move a hundred urns before you lay hands on another unpainted vase.”
She stifled a giggle. “But dolphins and squid are so boring.”
Alanis grit her teeth. “If the High Priest had seen the image of himself being sodomized by a goat the next time he went to bathe he would have had you, me, and my entire staff flogged and burned alive!”
Korinna grinned. “Why did you have to destroy that one? It was so good!”
The woman’s eyes flashed in that way that told her to stop, and Korinna gave up with a huff. She squeezed past the woman and into the main room of the pottery barn. (No, not that one, that one didn’t exist yet.) The workshop was an open room with large windows that didn’t quite eliminate the smell of wetted clay and stagnant bodies. The vase throwers and artists of the tiny island village of Zafolas would converge there daily, a couple thousand years before ceramics would be mass produced and sold as if they were handmade.
The hunched forms of the men there speckled the space, leaning over plain urns with brush in hand. For a moment she paused and sighed, then swept through the room handing out cups with as little grace and kindness as possible. Most were accepted without acknowledgment, except, of course, by Klaudios.
“My girl.” He looked up before she could stealthily abandon the cup at his side, the wrinkles around his eyes creasing with a toothy grin. Well, one says toothy, but in Klaudios’s case teeth were a rare commodity. “Give us a smile, eh?”
Korinna inhaled sharply, then peeled the corners of her mouth toward her ears, her eyes boring holes right through him. She imagined she were a corpse from the nose up. To her disgust, he seemed to enjoy it.
“There it is, was that so hard now?”
“I don’t fail to do things out of difficulty.” She glanced at the urn he’d been working on. Klaudios was talented, doubtless, but he’d been drawing the same woman in various stages of abduction by a bull for the last year on just about everything, and it turned her stomach. She plunked the cup down in the middle of his paints when he refused to take it and hurried passed him back into the kitchen, this time swiveling her hips away quick enough to avoid grabby hands. Perhaps now she could get back to throwing pots.
“He likes you.” Alanis was bustling in front of the oven and barely looked up when she entered.
Korinna blanched. “I don’t know why.”
“Me neither, you’re so skinny, but you know his wife is dead.”
The tray slid from her hands and clattered across the floor. “From old age,” Korinna gagged, “He could be my grandfather. Why don’t you marry him?”
Alanis shot a positively livid look at the girl, but then she collapsed with a sigh. She was the kind of woman who was predictable enough for you to know she would either slap you or kiss you, but unpredictable enough to not be sure which was coming. “Harvest will be here before we know it. I know it’s been no concern to you in your youth, but someone has to worry about these things. Someone like me who doesn’t want to have to go out and hire a new assistant.”
Korinna paused as she picked up the tray, her sight suddenly cloudy, her breath a little more shallow. “Oh.”
“So quit pissing off the gods!” The woman whacked Korinna on the back of her head, knocking her out of her trance. “There’s a shipment that needs to be at the temple by nightfall. Get to it!”
She turned and stormed off too quickly for her to respond, but Korinna’s mind was already elsewhere as she wandered out of the pottery barn. The field beyond the courtyard was still green, the sun hanging low in a clear blue sky. Only a slight chill to the salty breeze rushing in from the sea hinted that fall would soon be upon Zafolas. Korinna swallowed: Alanis was right, Korinna had not worried in her youth about these things, but today that came to an end.
If you enjoyed that, there’s more–a whole novel more! And you can get it now, like immediately, without even leaving the house! Check out The Korinniad, free on Kindle Unlimited or just $2.99 for the ebook on Amazon: