I’ve made it back from my adventures on the Emerald Isle, and although there’s the post-vacation blues and jet lag to sort through, I’m still super excited to crank out today’s post because it’s finally time to tell you all about my favorite of the many story lines I’ve woven together in The Bonds of Osteria.
Sure, Perseus and Medusa are classically familiar, and what girl doesn’t love a bit of Pegasus in her life? But the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice quickly turned into the story line I was most eager to work on over the many, many, MANY drafts to bring Bonds to life.
The Myth Vs. The Book: Orpheus & Eurydice
As with my past two forays into Myths Vs Book, I’m going to shout “SPOILER ALERT!!” right now, especially if you don’t know one lick of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. The original myth is in regular typeface, while I’ve enclosed my version of events in **italics** like so. Got it? Okay, on with the myth and my twist on this beautiful tale.
There’s a few slight variations of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, but let’s stick with the basics. In Greek myths, Orpheus is the son of the muse Calliope and the god Apollo who gives him a lyre. Orpheus turns out to be a child prodigy and ends up playing the most beautiful tunes in all the world.
**Those of you already familiar with the Osteria Chronicles know that Orpheus’s mom desperately wants her son to be a musician, but he’s got this pesky yearning to tinker with engineering (kids these days, am I right?). Still, Mom has gotten her way and Orpheus can play a mean bit of harp when required. Although I haven’t come out and clearly stated it, there are hints in The Bonds of Osteria that Orpheus may have divine parentage.**
Orpheus falls madly in love with the beautiful wood nymph, Eurydice, and she’s gaga for him as well. They don’t ever want to be apart and decide to marry. At their wedding, the officiator has a bad premonition about the longevity of their marriage.
**Orpheus met Eurydice way back in The Voyage of Heroes (Book Two) when he encountered her working as a servant on the creepy Doliones Island. As in the legend, it’s love at first sight for both, and we see them wed in The Maze of Minos (Book Three). It’s not the wedding officiator who worries about their marriage, but Iolalus, the leader of Portaceae, who always insists he doesn’t have any ability to see into the future.**
One day, Orpheus and Eurydice are strolling along when a shepherd sees Eurydice and wants her for himself (insert shepherd/sheep joke here). The lovers flee from the shepherd who has obviously been keeping up on his cardio and puts on a good chase.
Suddenly, like the lame girl in a horror movie, Eurydice falls. Orpheus sees she’s been bitten by a viper. The shepherd, seeing what has happened gives up and doesn’t even bother to call emergency services. (In some legends, it is Hera who sends the snake after Eurydice. The goddess is so disgruntled with the state of her own marriage that she can’t bear to see anyone else happily married.)
**In Bonds, Eurydice is pursued by a man from the Doliones Island. Iolalus wants to ensure the couple is safe, so he insists Orpheus have a bodyguard with him and Eurydice at all times. Well, the tricky couple want some alone time at a picnic and sneak away from their guard. This turns out to be a very VERY bad idea.**
Being desperately in love and very resourceful, Orpheus tells Apollo to take him to Hades so he can get Eurydice back. Apollo agrees and Orpheus plays such a beautiful song on his lyre for Hades that the god says he can have Eurydice back.
**There’s a little twist here in Bonds that I don’t want to reveal, but suffice it to say that Orpheus does get to Hades’s realm where Hades’s three-headed dog Cerberus has been acting up (due to some cruel treatment earlier in the book). Hades offers that if Orpheus can calm the dog with music, he can have Eurydice back.**
Of course we all know deals with the gods aren’t so simple. Hades stipulates that Orpheus can’t look back to his wife until they are fully out of the underworld. Well, wouldn’t you know it? Orpheus thinks they are out and turns around. Turns out, his timing was off and Eurydice is pulled back into the depths of Hades.
**In Bonds…well, you’ll just have to read the book to see how this final scene plays out. Don’t get too downhearted about the fate of these two lovers, though. Although I stick somewhat closely to the myth in Bonds, Orpheus has a big role to play in the final two books of the series and is not gone for good!**
From A Writer’s Perspective
As I said, I love writing any scene that features Orpheus which made the many chapters of him and Eurydice in this book a joy to write. I have to say that writing the scene in which (SPOILER ALERT) Eurydice dies did tug at my tough little heartstrings, and still did so even after reading the book over all its many, many, MANY drafts.
And now, a sample Orpheus chapter from The Bonds of Osteria
18 – Orpheus
It’s an amazing summer day in Portaceae City. Birds are chirping, the sun is shining, the agora is overflowing with the colors of fresh fruits and vegetables, and most wonderful of all, Eurydice is by my side. Unlike the other women in the market who sift through lengths of fabric and swoon over displays of jewelry, my wife chooses to look over a stall filled with pieces of wire and scraps of metal. From the dreamy concentration on her face I can tell she’s envisioning what she could construct with them.
As Eurydice debates the merits of an aluminum tube the vendor claims is as strong as steel, the Solon walks right up to me. The vendor sees him, gives a nod, and continues with what he’d been saying, not hesitating or changing a single word in the face of Portaceae’s highest authority, which I assume means his claims are true about the metal. Eurydice still turns the item over skeptically.
I bow, but Iolalus hoists me back to standing upright.
“I’ve told you, none of that. I’m no different than I ever was.”
This statement isn’t helpful. Iolalus, even though he’s friendly and never has a harsh word to say, has always made me nervous. Maybe nervous isn’t the right word, but he was a vigile before he was ever Solon and I’m always worried of accidentally breaking some law or other in his presence. Despite my knowing his laid back and amiable nature, Iolalus has a very commanding presence that will always intimidate me.
Of course it doesn’t help that the first time I ever spoke directly to him I thought he was going to arrest me for building a solar panel for my mother’s bird bath. I suppose I should feel more at ease with him since he had only been seeking my limited mechanical knowledge, which he later told me was the key component in bringing down our former Solon—the most corrupt man who’s ever set foot on the Hera Way. Still, I can’t get used to the idea of treating him as my equal.
“How’s married life, Orpheus?” My stomach lurches like a hare from a hound. With his bronze-colored hair, our Solon must have at least a few drops of oracle blood in him. Why, he even knew Eurydice was pregnant before I wed her. But he swears doesn’t have the Sight and knows no more about the future than anyone else.
“It’s good,” I respond. A smile engulfs my face just thinking of how happy I’ve been. “Really good,” I add.
“Why?” My heart kicks like an angry goat in my chest and my throat tightens. What has he seen?
“No reason.” He looks at me, my eyes beg him for more, to tell me what he knows. “I swear, it was just a question. A piece of chit chat.”
“If you say so. How’s the complaint to the Osteria Council going?” It feels like a bold question coming from my lips, but since Odysseus has settled in Salemnos, it’s harder for him to play the role of advisor to the Solon. Although I know I could never hope to reach Odysseus’s standing with Iolalus, he has been discussing polis matters with me, probably more to get things off his chest than to seek advice.
“They’ve ignored it. If I didn’t despise what the group stood for, I’d be insisting on taking my seat with them. But the moment I take that seat, I worry how people will perceive me.”
“You might be just the thing to restore people’s confidence in the Council.”
“I don’t know. The Council has had too many bad eggs around the table. My predecessor, Pelias, Pasiphae to name a few. Acrisius and Cassiopeia are greedy, and I worry about Agamemnon’s ambitions.” I’ve heard nothing about Agamemnon, but Iolalus receives news from higher sources than I do. And of course, there’s that red hair. “The very fact that they’ve ignored my complaint shows you what type of people Osteria has representing it. Even a negative response would show some responsibility.”
“So what will you do?”
“I’ll take my complaint and evidence directly to the High Court in Athenos. I’ve tried to convince Odysseus to go with me, but he’s worried if he takes one footstep out of Salemnos, he’ll miss Penelope. He’s written out his statement about what he saw in Minoa and promises when it comes to trial, he’ll serve as witness, but for now he’s staying put.”
“I can understand what it’s like to miss your wife. I start longing for Eurydice if she’s gone for more than an hour.”
“I imagine so. But enough of politics. I wanted to see if you two can come to my house this evening.”
As I’m wondering whether he wants me there as an engineer, a musician, or a friend, a dark shadow passes over us. We both instinctively glance up, but there isn’t a cloud in the sky. Before I can comment, a woman curses. A woman who sounds very much like Eurydice.
When I look to the stall, a huge man with long, black hair has my wife by the arm and is yanking her to him. Or trying to anyway. The man is huge, at least three times as broad as I am and a head taller. But Eurydice, although tiny, has a fierce and stubborn strength and she’s using every bit of it to hold her ground. She punches the man in his arm while shouting an amazing variety of curses.
Strong and broad himself, Iolalus takes two limping steps over to them. Being Solon, he’s followed by several vigiles who have been discreetly lingering back in case anyone tries to harm him. Iolalus, his face full of fury, raises his hands as if he’s going to push the man back or grab him by the shoulders.
Before he can reach the attacker, Eurydice grips the man’s forearm with one hand and drives her finger into the pressure point between the two arm bones. The man howls and twists, allowing her to bring the aluminum tube down hard on the back of his triceps, hitting another pressure point that I know—from her playfully showing me—if struck right makes the entire arm go numb. Her aim is true and his numbed hand releases its grasp on her.
“Arrest him,” Iolalus shouts, but the man uses his size to push through the crowd, knocking over tables full of wares and shoppers whose arms are full of goods. The vigiles give chase, but soon stop at the edge of the agora looking this way and that as if the man has disappeared into thin air.
“Are you all right?” Iolalus asks. Eurydice rushes into my arms. Her fighting done, she now trembles with fear and anger.
“I’m fine. Damn dirty Dol.”
My gut turns into an ever-tightening knot. My first thought on seeing the man’s distinctive features was that he was from Doliones Island, the small island in the Col River where Eurydice had been held like a slave, but I hadn’t wanted to believe it. The Dol rarely leave their district and even when they do, they only go to the smaller villages that are closest to their island to trade. They don’t come to the city unless they have to answer an official summons.
Or if they want something.
I push the thought away. They wouldn’t dare come here and steal my wife, I tell myself even though I know that is exactly what has almost just happened.
“I should have said something,” Iolalus says, shaking his head. I tense. So he does have some Sight; he had seen something like this was going to happen. That’s why he came.
“Something about what?” I ask, feeling guilty for how much I love the feel of Eurydice tucked into my arms.
“Before your marriage, I received a letter from the Dol. They had some harsh words and threats about wanting Eurydice back. I meant to tell you, I promise, but after leaving for Minoa and all that happened there, I forgot about it. I’m sorry. It was irresponsible of me.”
“A similar letter came to us. I had hoped it was just an empty threat.”
“Why can’t he just find someone else?” Eurydice asks angrily. “It’s not as if I ever gave him the tiniest hint I wanted him. I ignored and avoided him as much as I could. What man wants a woman who treats him like that?”
“A man who probably wants you more because of it. He wants you to subdue you,” Iolalus answers quietly. I think of his hesitation before my wedding to answer my question about whether or not Eurydice and I would have a long, happy marriage. Come to think of it, he never did answer. The knot in my stomach tightens another notch. “I will have vigiles patrol near and around your home and make certain that at least one is with you when you go about town.”
“I don’t want to be dogged by a shadow everywhere I go.”
My wife’s choice of words sends a chill through me as I remember what the Dol truly are.
“Just for a while,” I say in a reassuring tone. “Just until we’re sure everything’s okay.”
“If it will make you happy,” she says and leans her head back onto my chest. “Besides, how am I going to make you change diapers if I’m dragged off to Doliones Island before the baby is born.”
I look to Iolalus for a reaction. I wish I hadn’t. He’s looking at Eurydice’s belly in the same way one looks at a letter full of bad tidings. He meets my eyes, gives a solemn nod, and turns away. With only one glance, a vigile brings him a cane. The Solon hadn’t needed it earlier, but I know when troubles weigh on his mind, his limp worsens. I pull Eurydice to me in a tight hug and vow never to let her go.