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A novel at the edge of Greek Mythology

By H.C. Southwark

(Prequel to the Broken Pantheon Series)

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events or persons living or dead is entirely the reader’s own imagination.

© 2019 H.C. Southwark

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or stored in a retrieval system by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, secret alien technology, or otherwise, without written express permission from the publisher.

Published by Southwark.pub, Dallas


Book edition: ver. 1.3


To those

who love the old stories.



Isme sat outside her father’s cave and waited to see if the world would end.

The sun was halfway down and losing strength fast, with little flecks of stars swimming in the east. Eyes fixed on the sky, Isme pulled her dark hair away from her face and tied it with a thong, brushing ash onto her cheeks to shield from the heat. At sunset she needed to build the night fire. That way, if the world did not end, she would be warm all night long.

I hope the world does not end tonight, thought Isme. If the world had ended yesterday, that would not have been so bad. But today I am alone.

Her father left on a journey this morning. Had done so every other moon since Isme had become a woman last winter. Being alone for the end of the world seemed unbearable. But this was not all. Today was also the first full moon of spring.

Tonight, when the sands had cooled, the turtles would come.

If the world did not end first, of course.

Assembling everything for the night fire, Isme kept glancing at the sky. Her father’s brother had prophesied that this world would end in darkness and an earthquake. The world before now had ended in water, and the one before that in fire, and the one before that nobody knew. Compared to these options, Isme thought darkness and an earthquake did not sound so bad.

Her hands trembled as she considered what method she should use to start the night fire. She had been like this all day, strung tight like an animal skin cured to leather. Focus, she repeated, surveying the hearth. Her father had taught her many different ways for fire. Flint, bore-sticks, friction. Isme knew she should practice these methods because she might need one of them someday. Be prepared for anything in the end of the world.

Yet there was one way that Isme preferred. Her father called it the “cheating method,” and she used it so often that she might forget the other ways. But tonight, glancing at the other side of the hearth, where her father normally sat during the building of the night fire, Isme felt a prickly thorn bush rise against the inside of her ribs.

She said: “But you’re not here, Father, so I’ll do what I want.”

I’ll break all the rules, she thought, after all, I am a woman now.

Tonight, she was going to go to the beach, unaccompanied, and see the turtles all by herself. Her father never needed to know. She would break his rules and come home afterward and nobody would be the wiser—except Grandmother Kalliope, goddess-muse of song, but she was the sort to keep secrets despite being a storyteller.

Isme would start her disobedience now. A night fire using her cheating method.

Settling back onto her heels, Isme closed her eyes and reached her mind out to the fire. This was how to cheat: to find her secret well of songs. She had asked her father about her well once and he had said: that is the Muse, the great song-goddess Kalliope, lingering under your mind in that space between body and soul. And Isme had rejoiced.

Fire was there, same as everything she could ever want to sing about. Isme pushed toward the flame, asking: What do you want me to sing? What will call you forth?

Words came to her, words from the fire, simply, easily, as though fire was eager to be born. Opening her mouth, feeling like a leaf on a stream, Isme felt the words emerge as she sang what fire had taught her:

Flickering, flickering

Hasten forth bright spark

Soon the sun will be gone

And you alone will be here

To remind us we are alive—

The insides of Isme’s eyelids lit red, and when she opened them fire was before her, cackling like a baby bird in the center of the hearth stones. Isme laughed.

Tonight fire was just as jittery as she was, just as eager to begin. She reached forth and took more kindling from the briar pile and fed it to the fire, which opened its greedy maw and ate. She continued until it was fully grown, capable of surviving the rest of the night.

Above, the sun was no longer visible. His descent at first was slow, but all at once he lost vigor and in freefall plunged below the line of the hills. He was not quite down yet, Isme knew, for on the beach he was still holding his head above the water, but he would soon drown.

The indigo in the east darkened to black and the curved edge of the Milky Way could be seen. Further down the horizon, Isme knew there was a faint glow of more light coming. The moon, full-faced and round like the eye of a god, was waking, calling to the tide, the turtles. If Isme wanted to see them, she needed to start out now.

But first, the end of the world. She sat, waited for the sky to darken more. Breathed the night air and gazed about the campsite lit by her night fire: the kiln where she and her father made pottery, the opening to the cave with its cloth door, the ditches dug for water runoff...

There was plenty of darkness. But no earthquake.

The world had not ended.

Isme felt breath leave her, nostrils flaring with the outflow. She closed her eyes and thanked Grandmother Kalliope for the delay in the end of

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