assassin, oath-breaker, traitor (an affair with the queen earned him
that title). No one can ever learn the princess is his daughter. To
keep this secret, he flees to the land that turned him from a simple
stable groom into an infamous killer.
when an impulsive act of heroism saddles him with a damsel who
refuses to be distressed, her resilience forces him to questions why
he really ran from his daughter.
A door opened behind him, he stood and faced the high priest. Zotico was completely bald and looked no older than he had when The Ghost had first met him ten long years ago. He had small, beady eyes and a typical Saloynan narrow nose. “Pandaros! How wonderful!” the priest beamed, calling The Ghost a name he’d decided he must take up again. He could no longer be either “Ahearn” and “Darhour”; they were both dead. “Rumors said you were no longer among the living. Come in, come in.” Zotico gestured toward the doorway. “I can’t tell you how happy I am to see you.”
Zotico’s enthusiasm seemed excessive even for him. Warily, The Ghost followed Zotico down the corridor to the high priest’s office. It was large, the walls covered with instruments of war—swords, shields, battle axes, and plaques ornamented with what looked suspiciously like human ears. The ears were new. Zotico caught The Ghost looking at them and swept his hand over a plaque that contained five ears nailed side by side. “Do you like the new decor? Sacrifices, all of them. I had them moved from our private sanctuary so I could better remember the devotion demanded by the god I serve.”
Zotico may not appear to age, but his ghoulishness grew with each passing year. The Ghost carefully schooled his features to avoid betraying any sign of revulsion.
In the center of the office was a large desk with one chair behind it and two large, comfortable chairs facing it. Zotico gestured The Ghost into one of the facing chairs. The Ghost sat, and the high priest offered him a glass of oenomel, a sweet mixture of honey and wine. Zotico poured himself a glass from the same pitcher and sat behind the desk. “Pandaros, my friend. Why have you neglected your obligations to Ares?”
The Ghost waited for Zotico to take a sip of his drink, then took one of his own. It was cloying in its sweetness. “I’ve been distracted.”
Zotico smiled sadly. “A true tragedy. There’s no one better with a blade.” The priest mimed drawing a knife across his own throat. “I’ve had acolytes scouring the city more than once looking for you, but I gave up years ago when not the slightest sign of your whereabouts could be found. Tell me, my son, where have you been?”
“Away.” The Ghost had no intention of ever letting Zotico learn anything about Samantha, who was both his daughter and his queen. Because of his careful disguise, Zotico believed The Ghost was a Saloynan.
Zotico laughed. “Long have I wished for the power of Delphi to penetrate your secrets. Is there a person in the world who knows even half of them?” Zotico looked expectantly at him, but The Ghost didn’t answer. “I see my curiosity shall have to be contained. Ares is a harsh master and not attentive to trifles. Still, I can’t tell you how happy I am that you have now returned to his fold. His temple has truly felt your absence.”
The Ghost grunted, “Do you have a job for me?”
Zotico’s eyes gleamed. “Do I ever! I’d nearly despaired of finding a capable assassin, but your fortunate arrival proves that Ares will never fail those who serve his name.”
“Who do you want dead?”
“I think it would be best explained by the one in need of Ares’s assistance, but I assure you it is your sort of kill. May I tell the client you’ll meet?”
The Ghost nodded.
Zotico’s entire body relaxed. “Good, good. The client would prefer not to be seen here. I’ve an arrangement with the high priestess of Aphrodite. The two gods were lovers, after all. Enter the goddess’s temple tomorrow morning and choose the acolyte wearing the pendant of a vulture.” Zotico smiled broadly. “Pandaros, my friend, it is a great day for you to have returned.”
“You are not my friend.” The Ghost left with Zotico’s laughter ringing in his ears.
avid reader, read to her, and her older sister filled her head with
fairy tales. Taking into consideration her love for literature and
the challenges of supporting herself as a writer, she pursued a Ph.D.
in American literature, which she received in 1998. She started
teaching writing and literature at Auburn University. But in doing
so, she put her true passion on the backburner and neglected her
muse. Then one day, in the midst of writing a piece of literary
criticism, she realized that what she wanted to be doing was writing
fantasy novels. Her muse thus revived, she began the book that was to
become The Goddess’s Choice. The second volume in the series, The
Soul Stone, will be released on June 25, 2015.
(or so she’s been told) officially makes her a cat lady. She still
teaches writing and literature at Auburn University. Her short
fiction has been published on Short-Story.Me, and my story was chosen
for inclusion in their annual anthology. It has also appeared in the
anthologies—Urban Fantasy (KY Story, 2013) and Of Dragon and Magic:
Tales of the Lost Worlds (Witty Bard Publishing, 2014)—The World of
Myth, A Writer’s Haven, and Bards & Sages.