Origin of the Sphinx

By: Raye Wagner

Prologue


When he came home early from the summer grazing, Damon found his daughter playing in the empty pens. Thalla, however, was nowhere to be seen.

“Phoibe.” He smiled as her little legs ran to meet him, and he swept her up into a hug. “Where’s your momma?”

She frowned. “In the house. We had visitors this morning, and she asked that I play outside while they talked. But, when they left . . . I tried to go inside, but the door was locked.” She looked up at her father, her face knit into features far too serious for one so young. “Daddy, I think she’s crying.”

His heart thudded. “Who were the visitors?”

“I don’t know. There was a pretty lady that gave me a hug, and a man that looked really angry. The lady went in and talked with Momma, but the man just stood outside the door and practiced chopping things.” She pointed to a marred trunk.

The stout olive tree looked like it was ready to topple. Damon would need to attend to it or it would crush the house with the next windstorm.

Phoibe’s words drew him back. “Are you going to check on Momma, now? I think you should.”

He sighed, the heavy weight of dread filled his chest. “Yes, darling. Will you be okay for a little while longer?”

“Yes.”

When Damon reached the door, it was indeed locked. “Thalla?”

The door flew open, and he stepped back.

The woman before him was ravaged by pain. Her dark eyes were red and swollen, and tears still ran down her cheeks. He stepped forward, but when he reached for her she pushed him away.

“Thalla.” He pled with her.

She shook her head and walked into the house, leaving him alone in the doorway.

Anxiety hung heavy in the air.

Something hot and urgent pulsed in him. “What happened?” But he already knew. There was only one thing that could destroy his happiness.

“You lied to me.” She turned and fixed him with a glare; her finger marked him with accusation. “Do you even love me, or did you just need someone to help raise your daughter?”

“Who came? Who told you?”

“Who do you think?” She choked on the words, as if shards of broken glass. She paused, and took a deep breath. “Her mother. Her real mother, Hera.” She wailed with the betrayal, and a fresh round of tears started.

He inched forward, and when he drew her to him she collapsed in his arms.

He stroked her hair and whispered “Shhh. I love you, Thalla. Shhh.”

She pulled away to look him in the eye. “Do . . . you . . . really?”

“Yes.” The twinge of guilt he felt was for lying about Phoibe.

She sighed. “I guess you must, or she wouldn’t have been so upset. Or made such a threat. Do you want to hear her message?”

“She gave you a message for me?”

Another sigh. “Yes, but I don’t think you’ll like it.”

Excitement and fear warred. He waited, unwilling to acknowledge his want.

“She told me that you will never raise her daughter with my children.”

“What?” It made no sense. “What did she mean?” He pulled back and stared at his wife as if the answers might appear on her dark olive skin.

“Don’t you see? If we keep Phoibe here with us, we will never have children of our own.”

He shook his head. She couldn’t mean . . .

“I can’t have children if Phoibe stays with us,” she whispered.

A wave of nausea rolled through him. This was not about the two of them—he and Hera—it was about him and Thalla. “She means to make me choose? Choose between you and Phoibe? I… I don’t understand it.” He sat shaking his head, his thoughts a mess of confusion.

“No, Damon,” Thalla set her hand on his arm, her voice brimming with sympathy. “She means to make you choose between me and her.”

“But, no. She left me. She can’t mean that. How could she mean that?”





Chapter 1


“Your father is coming by tonight.” Priska poked her head out into the courtyard where Phoibe sat with her grinding stones. “Will you have their flour done?”

Phoibe nodded. “This is the last of it.” She wiped the sweat from her face ever cautious to keep her hands clean. “Is Thalla coming with him?” She tried to keep the hope out of her voice. It shouldn’t matter if Thalla came. Not after all these years.

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