Eva McRayne thought she’d be close to Elliot Lancaster forever. But one twisted mind and a vengeful goddess changed all that. Now, she will have to fight for her sanity as Elliot pushes her to the ultimate limit.
When Eva is forced to return to her hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, she learns that the past can be used against her in the worst way possible. The binds of love she thought served to make her stronger can be her downfall.
And memories can serve as the strongest of chains.
Kassandra, Former Princess of Troy
The Sibyl was exactly five rows in front of me.
I could see the girl from my dreams sitting at a table in the front of the room. Despite the crowds clamoring to ask her questions, she held the air of someone who wanted to be anywhere else but where she was. Not that I could blame her. I’d come to this conference two days before. I’d suffered through classes on spiritualism. Pagan rituals. Even, dare I say it, the pantheons of the Olden Days.
These modern souls knew nothing of our gods. They told rehashed stories softened over time to be shared with children. Yet, I knew the truth. I had suffered greatly at the hands of our shared patron deity as most often do.
I will not discuss the manner in which they dressed during these modern times. I found it all to be quite horrifying.
“Alright. Can we get another question for our panel?”
A man in a t-shirt that labeled him as a superhero held the microphone. He pointed to a girl dressed in Grecian robes. An obvious costume. Not even the most desperate woman of Hellas would have worn such a thing. She was passed the microphone and almost dropped it with her nervousness.
“Miss. McRayne, my name is Riley. I have to tell you I’m a huge fan of Grave Messages. It’s such an honor to get to see you in person.”
The girl at the table tilted her head as she waited for the question. Even from a distance, I could see the strained faces around her. Three men, two more women – all who claimed to be conduits for spirits. Except the crowd wasn’t interested in them. They were here for one person and one person only.
Eva McRayne. The Sibyl. Daughter of Apollo.
“Anyway,” The audience member gushed. “I wanted to ask you what it felt like.”
“What do you mean? What does what feel like?” McRayne tapped her fingers against the table. “Being the Sibyl?”
“No, well, yes. I mean,” The girl shook her head. “Talking to the dead. It must be surreal.”
McRayne closed her eyes for a second before she glanced up at the ceiling. I'm sure she was asking for patience. When she finally answered, she smiled.
“It’s like talking to you right now, Riley. You’re a fan of the show, and I’m grateful for that. Talking with you is special. That’s what it’s like to talk to the dead. Special.”
The girl squealed and almost dropped the microphone before the man took it from her. I couldn’t help but shake my head. We had heard talk of Hera’s contact with the Sibyl. How this one, solitary creature had managed to steal the Queen of the Heaven’s knowledge. It seems she stole much more than that.
The Sibyl had stolen her charisma as well. The crowd applauded McRayne until two of the panel members got up and left the room. McRayne watched them go before turning her attention back to the audience.
“Was it something I said?”
Laughter. More applause. Those who had attended the panel on spirit communication were not disappointed in the entertainment the Sibyl offered them. I raised my hand as the other three panel members left the room but the moderator had other ideas.
“Eva,” He jogged down the aisle between the seats and up the stairs to face the only participant left at his table. “Tell us again how you became the Sibyl.”
The girl with the golden eyes winced. “Do I have to?”
“Please.” The man gestured out to the crowd. “I’m sure that our guests are dying to hear it from you.”
"They always are." The girl closed her eyes once more. "Fine. I'll tell you. It's not like my transformation is a secret or anything."
The Sibyl. The great Crusader who had vanquished the Erinyes and Hera herself looked as if she were in pain for only a second before her crafted mask fell back into place. She twirled a golden strand of hair around her finger before she began to speak.
“It was here at ParaCon two years ago. We had just gotten the go-ahead for Grave Messages and I was nothing. I’m still nothing. But I was sitting right there when I knocked over Kathy Carter’s laptop and she changed my life forever.”
The girl pointed to a seat in the front row. The man sitting there now leaned forward as if she had tugged on a string. She dropped her arm, folded her hands before her on the table, and continued.
“Kathy Carter was my predecessor. She tricked me into coming up onto this stage and saying the oath of the Sibyl on Apollo’s mirror because she was tired of life. According to Cyrus, she had taken the mirror over a hundred years before.”
Cyrus of Crete. We all knew the infamous Keeper of the Sibyl. Once a great general for Greece, he too had suffered Apollo’s wrath. I smiled at the thought. The Golden One had long been a favorite in Olympus, but his gifts often turned out to be curses. Nothing gained from his hands was ever truly golden. Only gilded.
Just as I had discovered so very long ago.
“I didn’t believe it at first.” McRayne shrugged. “I mean, who in their right mind would? You can never look into a mirror again without seeing spirits? I thought I’d hit my head and suffered a concussion.”
“What changed your mind?” A voice called out from the enamored crowd. “Was it Cyrus?”
“Partially.” The girl nodded. “But it was hard to deny the faces I began seeing in the glass. I couldn’t ignore the whispers circling around me. Those whispers became the centerpiece around Grave Messages. I mean, if I was going to be hunting for ghosts, then I might as well listen to what they had to say instead of letting them drive me insane.”
Listen. Deny. Insanity. I clinched my hands at her choice of words. This girl knew nothing about denial. She had the entire world listening to her every utterance. No one dared to call her mad.
Not as the world had done to me. I spoke the truth and was condemned for it.
I swallowed back my own hatred. This was not why I had come to New York. Nor could I allow my spite to overwhelm me. Despite my dislike for the Sibyl, we were both products of a vengeful god. Apollo had cursed me just as he had cursed her.
Eva McRayne would listen to me. She would believe me. I could feel it.
I waited until she finished her tale before I stood up.
“May I speak with the Sibyl?”
The moderator bounded off the stage until he stood in front of me. Hera’s gift of immortality had preserved my beauty and I used it to my advantage. I brushed the red curls off of my face before I took the microphone from him with a soft expression. I watched the desire arise in his eyes and I knew I could get anything I wanted from him.
Men, no matter how high they rise, will always prove themselves to be savages.
Once I had the microphone, I turned my attentions onto the girl. I waited for the world to grow still. I waited for eyes to go blind to my surroundings. I willed my ears to deafen to the soft sounds of the audience around me.
Flashes of prophecy burst behind my eyes when I began to speak. I could see the girl struggling against the worst enemy she had ever been forced to fight.
“Sibyl, daughter of Apollo. A messenger will come after a great devastation. Yet, we are sisters, you and I. Both corrupted by Apollo. Twisted into unnatural beings. As such, I have come to give you a warning. You suffer from the hands of a vengeful creature.”
“Ok.” The man tried to take the microphone out of my hands. “That’s enough. You will not speak to Ms. McRayne…”
“There will be much woe, Daughter of Apollo. You will suffer.”
I tried to wrestle the microphone out of the man’s grasp. Two large men joined him on either side until he had won his precious device back. I turned towards the stage to see that the girl had stood up. Her beloved Keeper had appeared by her side within seconds.
“Do not wallow in ashes!” I screamed at the girl as the men began to pull me away. “Or else you will fall! Do not fall, Daughter of Apollo! Do not fall!”
Cynthia D. Witherspoon is an award winning writer of Southern Gothic, Paranormal Romance, and Urban Fantasy. She has been published in numerous anthologies since 2009.
Her work has appeared in several award winning collections including Dark Tales of Ancient Civilizations (2012) and Pellucid Lunacy (2010). Thief is her fourth full length novel in the Oracle Series.