Well folks, after the long-awaited cover reveal, the creation of a big ol’ box set of the first three books of The Osteria Chronicles, and a HUGE discount on book four, it’s now time for me to gear up for the release of the final two books of this historical fantasy series in which the myths. gods, and heroes of Ancient Greece come to life.
As I’ve done in the past, that means finally getting to share with you the actual myths that went into the creation of these two books.
When I’m drafting my books, I’m usually so lost in the process I forget to clue you in to the stories behind the stories I’m working on. But as I was sifting through the final couple proofreading marathons, I started jotting down all the “behind the book” bits you might like.
So, over the next few months, you’re going to get your fill of Greek legends (and how they relate to my own fiction), including….
- Hades & Persephone
- Apollo & Daphne
- Rhea & Kronos
- The Trojan Horse
- The Spartans (more history/culture than legend with this one)
- Odysseus & Penelope
- The Odyssey
- and plenty more
To kick things off, I’m starting with the events that launched The Trojan War and how they’ve developed over the previous four books of The Osteria Chronicles. We’ll then follow that up with a sample chapter to show off how this all plays out in The Battle of Ares.
Let’s Start a War!!
As with the other books in the Osteria Chronicles series, although the essential story and outcome are similar to the original Greek legends, I have changed some aspects of the myth of the Trojan War to better fit the world of Osteria, the timing of the story, and the narrative of the series.
First off, the Trojan War has a long lead-up and some of that has been hinted at in earlier books of The Osteria Chronicle series.
For example, Paris not selecting Hera as the most beautiful of the goddesses during Jason and Medea’s wedding in The Voyage of Heroes meant that Aphrodite promised he would get his heart’s desire: Helen.
In legend, the apple (known as the Apple of Discord) did show up at a wedding, but it was the wedding of the parents of Achilles, not Jason and Medea. On the apple was a note saying it was “for the fairest” and Paris had to choose whether this was Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena. When he chose Aphrodite, she made Helen fall in love with Paris.
In The Voyage of Heroes, the two lovers are already gaga for one another, but as the series moves along, Aphrodite and Ares twist and push events to make sure that when Paris and Helen do hook up, it starts a war.
Not helping matters was Odysseus’s suggestion of a treaty amongst the suitors to Tyndareus in The Bonds of Osteria. As in legend, the whole point of the treaty is to stop Helen’s suitors from fighting amongst themselves, but the treaty only adds fuel to the war fires.
Through much mumbling and grumbling (and some sneaky dealing by Agamemnon), Helen finally chooses to wed Menelaus. In the myth, Helen is already married to Menelaus when Aphrodite makes her fall in love with Paris, but in the Osteria Chronicles, Helen only chooses to wed Menelaus because she thinks he’ll turn a love-blind eye to her cheating on him with Paris.
In the original tale, Paris and Helen do sneak off together right under Menelaus’s nose; in The Bonds of Osteria, they take off during Helen and Menelaus’s wedding reception. Cheeky, huh?!!
And this is pretty much where The Battle of Ares begins, with Menelaus realizing his wife has ditched him. For a taste of this poor guy’s distress, I’ve included that chapter (which I had a lot of fun writing) below.
Agamemnon, already war-hungry, knows this is his chance and he’s been betting on it. Thanks to the treaty and thanks to Helen’s instant infidelity, when Agamemnon and Menelaus want to go to war against Troy, the signers of the treaty have to back them up. All’s fair in love and war, right?
Trimming the Timeline
In the legend jotted down by Homer, the Trojan War lasts nearly ten years and the gods intervene quite often. To keep the story more concise (and because I’m not a battle scene writer), I trimmed the actual war down to about three to four months.
Not to disregard a fair bit of the story of the Trojan War, but for about nine years, there’s just a bunch of killing, laying siege, and stand offs. Finally, in the tenth year, we get to some action and is what the majority of the “war bits” of The Battle of Ares focuses on. But more on those some other time.
As for the gods, in The Battle of Ares (and leading up to it in The Bonds of Osteria), a war is building between the gods versus the titans. The gods are essentially growing weaker and more divided just when Osteria needs them at their best. Because of this, the gods stay out of my war for the most part.
Sample Chapter from The Battle of Ares: Book Five of the Osteria Chronicles…
Chapter Two – Agamemnon
“How could she? At our wedding?” My brother’s voice pitches high with distress as he drops down, head in hands, on the edge of the bed in which he was meant to fully claim Helen of Vancuse as his wife.
“I should’ve known,” I say with false sincerity. “Paris should never have been invited.”
Menelaus’s head jerks up. His red-rimmed eyes are juicy with fat, feminine tears. Pathetic.
“You told me— No, you made me invite him.”
“I thought he was more honorable than this.”
I thought nothing of the sort. I’d heard it from her own maid’s lips that Helen would leave with Paris as soon as the chance came. Although I have to admit I thought she’d at least have granted my brother the courtesy of a round of bedsport for their wedding night. But to leave him in the midst of the reception? I turn my back on my brother, pretending to gaze out the window to hide my grin. I almost have to admire her gall.
Despite my brother’s obvious misery, I can’t help but buzz with a sense of triumph. Helen may not have given my brother what he wanted, but she’s more than satisfied me. Thanks to the treaty Tyndareus made us sign, if Menelaus chooses to do his duty and defend his honor, he’ll have most of Osteria’s vigiles behind him. Clearly, he’ll be too distraught to lead, so, as his caring and devoted brother, I will step in to take the burden of command off his weary shoulders. And it’s my name that will earn glory in this battle.
“What am I to do?” Menelaus asks. “They all think I’m up here bedding her. Should I go back down looking satisfied and boasting of plowing Vancusian fields with Seattican seed?”
I glance over my shoulder and arch a skeptical eyebrow.
“Is that really what you planned to say?”
“No, of course not,” my brother says, his eyes darting guiltily away. He would have. He’s probably been dreaming of saying that ever since Helen realized none of Osteria’s dashing heroes wanted her, gave up trying to change her father’s mind about her contract to wed anyone other than Paris of Demos, and finally betrothed herself to my brother — the least favored of all her suitors.
After their hands had been bound, the words spoken over the marriage cloth, and the celebrations gotten well underway, Helen extracted herself from my brother’s loving grip with excuses that she needed the water closet. She left the table, left the banquet hall, and apparently left the city. When, over an hour later, she still hadn’t returned, teasing began that Helen must be in bed waiting for her groom, and that Menelaus better get to his wife before she fell asleep. Some even advised him to take her anyway, that he deserved a joyful wedding night after waiting so long for it.
Menelaus, uncomfortable with such crude words being spoken about the love of his life, laughed awkwardly, and made his goodbyes. I trailed after him, playing the part of witness, but knowing very well that my brother’s loins were going to remain without satisfaction.
The marital room, filled with white and pink flowers, had a sprawling bed decorated with sheer white and silver bed hangings. Menelaus had grinned at me and I tipped my head encouragingly toward the bed. My heart must have been pounding as hard as his when he gripped the hangings and whisked them apart.
As a piece of folded parchment fluttered to the floor, my brother stood there, dumbfounded and devastated to find the bed empty. When I stooped down to pick up the letter and saw Helen’s proud handwriting, I swear I almost shouted out my praises to the Twelve. But I composed my face into something resembling sympathy and handed him the note.
“I can’t,” he said, signaling me to remove the thing from his sight. “You read it.”
I opened it. I had to turn my back to him to hide the smile on my face. “She’s gone with Paris.”
My brother had groaned, then leapt up and yanked the message from my hand. He couldn’t have scanned more than the first line before he dropped back onto the bed and bemoaned his fate.
“You can’t let this slide. You can’t just sit there and let him do this to you,” I now say, picking up the note he’d let fall to the floor in his despair.
“What’s the point in going after her? She doesn’t want me. I should’ve realized that long ago.”
“Not her. You don’t need her. There’s probably a dozen women downstairs right now who would bed you. I’m talking about taking action. The Prince of Demos has insulted you, he has stolen from you. You have the right to call him out. And not just you. This won’t just be a matter of fighting for the honor of Seattica. It will be for the honor of all Osterians.”
“All Osterians?” he asks doubtfully.
“You have Tyndareus’s treaty behind you, remember?”
Dear gods on Olympus! Has my brother paid attention to anything that wasn’t Helen in these past months?
“Yes, the treaty we suitors signed. The treaty Odysseus suggested to Helen’s father to keep her suitors from turning Vancuse City into a fighting den,” I say as if speaking to a dimwitted seven-year-old. “It says that if any of us goes to war with just cause, that the other suitors and the vigiles they command are required to join us. It was meant to keep us from fighting one other while we were trying to win Helen’s hand.”
“But that treaty was null once she picked one of us, wasn’t it?”
“The treaty ends only once the wedding is complete. Since your marriage hasn’t been consummated, you are not truly wed under Osterian law. The treaty is still valid.”
The scent of roses swirls around me as I pace back and forth across the room, too excited to remain still. This is happening. It’s really happening.
“Go to war with Demos? But the Areans are there.”
“Yes, but Demos hasn’t called for help. That either means they have sided with the Areans or have been invaded and can’t get word out. Look at it this way. We, I mean you, get your revenge by bringing a battle to Demos. You fight Paris for your wife and, since we’ll have at least six legions with us, we can use them to take down the Areans and save Demos — or punish Demos if it turns out they have allied themselves with Aryana. You will get Helen and we will be heroes.”
More like I will be the hero. I plan to keep my brother away from fighting anyone except perhaps Paris. Possession of Helen is the only prize he wants anyway. I will be the one who led scores of men, I will be the one who fought bravely. It will be my name on everyone’s lips as the greatest hero of Osteria. Once I win this battle, all the praise and all the spoils, Demos included, will be mine. After that, nothing will stand in my way.
The first order of business, of course, will be to push my brother from his place as co-ruler of Seattica. He’s no leader; he hasn’t the devious mind for it. As soon as I’m the sole representative for my polis, I’ll claim my place at the head of the Osteria Council, then it will only be a matter of time before I bring all of Osteria under my rule.
“I don’t know,” Menelaus says, interrupting my dreams of absolute power. “If Helen wants Paris maybe I should give up.”
“You would let our Seattican name be insulted?” I say, scolding him with my tone of incredulity. “You would let a promise, your own wedding vows made before the gods, be broken without repercussion?”
“No, I—” As his head tilts up, I tame the thrill I feel brightening my face. By the time he meets my eyes, I’ve donned a reassuring, knowledgable air. He sighs and in that single breath of air, I know he’s conceded. He will declare war on Demos. I have to bite my tongue to hold back a whoop of joy. “If you think it’s for the best.”
I sit on the bed next to him and put my arm around his burly shoulder. “It’s what you deserve.”
“Then I suppose we can make the announcement in the morning.”
“Most of the suitors are downstairs already. We should make the call to arms tonight, as well as send out the call to anyone not attending. You’ll see, by the end of the week, you’ll have the backing of so many men, the very rumble of their marching feet will crumble the walls of Troy. Now, come on,” I urge, leaping from the bed, ready to act. Ready to fight. If only Demos was closer, I would attack tonight. “The sooner the better. Once you make the call, you can get blazingly drunk.”
Menelaus remains seated on the bed with his shoulders slumped as he absent-mindedly fiddles with a rose petal.
“You do it. I can’t bear facing them.”
“No,” I say sternly and tug his arm to pull him from the plush bed. “You get down there. You show them the pain Demos has caused you.”
“Technically, it’s Vancuse that’s caused it. Helen was as much a part of this as Paris.”
“I suppose, but Nestie would kill me if I declared war on her polis.” A sudden wave of relief at getting away from my wife washes over me. Another benefit of war. It just gets better and better. “Besides, it’s Demos’s prince who has ruined your dreams, torn your heart from your chest, kidnapped your wife. He’s brought war upon his polis.”
Menelaus holds up the letter. “She went willingly.”
“Yes, but they don’t need to know that.” I grab the letter back from him and tear it to shreds. “Now, let’s go start a war.”
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