03 March 2014

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Muse Unexpected by V.C. Birlidis


Muse tour

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Muse Unexpected
by V.C. Birlidis.
Audience/Genre: Fantasy.
Publication: January 15th 2014 by Crescent Moon Press .
"We're Muses. Not vampires, not fairies, not werewolves. We're Muses." Sophie was sure her mother had reached an epic level of crazy. ‘We're Muses?' She thought Muses were lame, not to mention she found the idea ridiculous. However, Sophie couldn't explain away her physical transformation that made Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries look like a bad Walmart make-over, not to mention why her mood swings triggered an uncontrollable ability to shoot powerful bursts of energy out of her hands.

Sophie soon realizes modern day Muses have evolved into powerful guardians of humankind, tasked with keeping mortals on the right path and the original Olympians locked away from the world. But old hatreds don't die easily, especially for immortal enemies that have an eternity to plot and gather their forces. Well aware of the Fates' foretelling of another Olympian war, and a young Muse that would rise up as a warrior and defeat them, the Olympians have vowed to either possess Sophie or destroy her. Either way, they will make sure everyone associated with their imprisonment will reap an eternal damnation in the Underworld, leaving the Olympians to restore Mount Olympus and force humankind into a future of never-ending servitude and misery

Here is the first chapter...

Chapter 1
Chios, Greece — 1950

Georgia sucked in a deep breath as she felt the nail of her right
index finger tear.
“Ow. Ow. Ow.” She pulled herself across the edge of the cliff,
got to her feet and stuck the throbbing finger in her mouth,
attempting to somehow lessen the pain. The nail was barely held
in place by her cuticle and after a quick examination she used her
teeth to tear it away and then spat it out.
“Damn it.” She popped the finger back in her mouth.
A wave of physical exhaustion threatened to make her double
over in dry heaves, but Georgia smiled, both relieved and
surprised she had made it. She stood on the edge of the cliff
looking at the starting point of her journey—the valley down
below and its tiny cluster of houses. As a moment of contentment
filled her mind, her left foot slipped over the edge and she
stumbled backward. She steadied herself, closed her eyes and took
several deep, calming breaths, trying to ignore the throbbing of
the cuts and scrapes she had earned on her journey. The skirt of
her favorite yellow sundress was filthy and torn. Her mother
would be furious at her for ruining her only decent Sunday dress,
but she pushed the thought out of her mind and grabbed for the
bag slung over her shoulder.
“It’s still there.” She patted it closer to her hip. So much
depends on this bag.
She swallowed the lump in her throat, afraid to turn around;
afraid of being disappointed; afraid she’d risked everything just to
find out she’d been a fool. She knew she was meant to take this
journey. She had the chance to change her life, and she wasn't
about to turn back. She would scream to hell with her mother, to
hell with the beatings and screams of “no” “you can’t” or “know
your place”. She would seize what was hers and once she had it, no
one would ever take it away.
Georgia began humming the latest Billie Holiday song, “God
Bless The Child”. It reminded her of her beloved Yiayia and the 6 V.C. Birlidis

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countless afternoons they'd spent together. Remembering her
Yiayia always made her feel better, stronger and more confident.
Always dressed in the same heavy black polyester dress, Yiayia’s
deeply lined face would light up whenever she saw Georgia, and
once they were both sure Georgia's mother wasn’t around, Yiayia
would pull out the old leather book she hid under her bed and tell
Georgia of the endless stories of their long, amazing and magical
family history and the greatness for which she was destined.
She stopped humming and turned around. She had always
pictured the temple on the top of the mountain as being
untouched by the elements, as if it could avoid the relentless
winds and the brutal Chios winters full of massive downpours that
whipped around with such force that they were sometimes
mistaken for hail.
But now she realized this was just a fantasy. Her history books
and numerous trips to Athens did not prepare her for the size of
the structure in front of her. It was massive, with countless Ionic
columns, each at least twenty-five feet thick and tall enough to
make estimating their height impossible. The main temple was
flanked by several connected chambers with their own separate
entrances, each a smaller version of the temple itself. The exterior
walls were made of what appeared to be stone of varying sizes and
textures, but the wind, rain and salt air had eaten away at the
façade, making it look like coral. It was hard to see where one
stone ended and another began. Many gnarled mastic trees had
sprouted alongside the temple, uprooting some of the
foundation’s massive stones. Major cracks worked their way up
the walls, like a system of veins pumping life into its stone body.
Georgia scurried forward, entering what appeared to have been
a courtyard at one time. The remains of several long marble
benches were scattered throughout the area, almost completely
hidden in the tangle of vines and grass. There were also countless
statues with eroded and stained bodies. As she walked past the
statues, she stopped for a moment. While she was certain she was
alone, the journey to the remote, virtually unknown ruin being too
difficult for most, she was sure she heard voices. Barely whispers,
but they were there, floating in and out on the wind.
Don’t look back, you idiot. Ignore it.
She glanced over her shoulder as a sudden gust of wind made
the vines on the statues sway, unnerving her enough to make her Muse Unexpected 7

~ e ~
turn and run blindly toward the temple’s entrance. Her foot
caught on a hidden root and she tripped, sending her flying into
the portico, slamming into a set of massive iron doors. The impact
created a cloud of dust and rust flakes, and one of the doors swung
open with a horrible screech that echoed throughout the structure.
“Could this get any worse?” She lay there with her face on the
cold, filthy floor, coughed and spit out a few rust flakes and a
small bug. She slapped the floor, hard, and stood up. “Whoever is
in charge of housekeeping needs to be fired.” She glanced back at
the door she came through. Something moved, just out of her line
of vision, and she shivered and walked forward.
Her eyes took a moment to get used to the temple’s pitch-black
interior. It reminded her of so many Greek Orthodox cathedrals
she had attended services in. She walked in-between two massive
white columns and found herself in the center of the temple.
Several birds, startled by her presence, took flight and flew out
through the nonexistent roof. Appearing to be somewhat
interested in her, a single white dove flew into a nook between
pieces of rotten roof timbers.
She was a bit unnerved by the stillness attacking her
confidence. She set down her bag, pulled out a large book, several
tightly wrapped packages, a large flashlight and a lighter. Above,
the dove cooed from its perch, flapping its wings before nestling
deeper into its nook.
Her flashlight beam sliced through the dark, revealing the
profile of a white statue. A burst of adrenaline surged into her
It’s not one of the rotting statues from the courtyard. Calm
The statue was in perfect condition, the only exception being
the jasmine vines and tree roots covering its base. It depicted a
beautiful woman holding a grapevine. The vine entwined itself
around her, all the way up to the woman’s head. A golden crown
glistened with several large, roughly cut stones embedded in it.
Georgia cast her beam of light around the chamber, revealing
other statues, all in different poses, holding different objects. Her
Yiayia had been right all along. This temple had been created to
worship the Muses, the nine daughters of the King of the Greek
gods, Zeus. She was exactly where she needed to be.
She rushed back to her pile of items and picked up the large 8 V.C. Birlidis

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book, fumbling with its pages. Finding what she was looking for,
she placed the book on the ground, angling the flashlight so she
could read the text. She reviewed the diagram of the interior of the
temple and thought she must have selected the wrong page
because it was different from what she remembered reading
earlier. Instead of being a diagram of the temple as it appeared
during ancient times, the diagram now illustrated the temple as it
appeared to her now, including the depiction of a girl holding a
book in one hand and something she couldn’t make out in the
other. Georgia reminded herself, regardless of whether or not the
map had changed, there was some sort of hidden trigger she
needed to find.
She knelt and pushed on the tiles around her, but the floor felt
solid. She stood up again and began biting her thumbnail, closing
her eyes to think. She guessed the mosaic pattern was confusing
her and assumed it was created to do just that. Forgoing her sense
of sight, she knelt and ran her fingers across the tiles again.
Finding nothing, she changed her tactics.
“If the tile won’t give the secret away, maybe the filthy,
disgusting grout will,” she muttered, as she followed the rough
pattern outlining the mosaic pieces. She winced as her fingers
touched the centuries of filth. Directly underneath the spot where
she stood, she felt a slight difference in the grout's texture. She
pushed on it and the tile seemed to give a little, so she pushed
harder. The tile popped up, held in place by a metal rod. She
twisted it. The first turn brought nothing. The second and third
caused the temple floor to shudder for a few seconds. With a
trembling hand she twisted the tile a fourth time and braced
herself. The pressure of her pounding heart filled her ears. The
dove cooed from above.
As she was beginning to calm, the temple floor shook with such
force she was sure the building was falling off of its foundation
and would slide off of the cliff. The room filled with overwhelming
sounds of crunching and growth. The roots below the floor
strained against their marble prison, sending mosaic tiles, soil and
rock shooting into the air. Georgia fell backwards and covered her
head against the falling debris. Something squirmed across her
foot and she yelped, turning over to discover the tree roots and
jasmine vines crawling across the floors and engulfing the
columns they had been strangling for centuries. Enormous trees Muse Unexpected 9

~ e ~
grew and expanded, shattering what remained of the roof.
Among the churned up roots and soil appeared a large round
formation of pure white marble, the raw stones creating a circle
around where Georgia crouched. Several deeper roots grew, fusing
together and growing leaves out of the tips of their tendrils. A
large slab of marble forced into the air reached the end of its
airborne journey and she scurried back, expecting it to either
crush her or slam into what she assumed was a young mastic tree.
The slab hit the tree with such force she was sure it would shatter,
but the roots caught the stone and held it in place, forming a high
The floor ceased shaking and she stood up, unsure what to do
next. The dove cooed above her and she scrambled to gather her
items, placing them on the newly formed altar. She took a deep
breath and reopened the book to the temple diagram. Like before,
the diagram of the room had changed and she took a moment to
glance around her new surroundings. It was surreal, a fairyland,
the trees creating a natural canopy of branches and leaves, and the
jasmine vines covering the columns with their fragrant flowers.
The statues of the Muses remained unchanged, although the roots
surrounding their bases seemed thicker, as if they were straining
to keep the statues from flying away.
She opened the packages she'd brought. One contained a
bundle of white sage, Greek oregano, lavender and aged cedar,
which she placed on the altar to her left, along with a small lighter.
With great care, she unwrapped the next package, which
contained three pounds of raw sea salt. The next set of packages
had nine candles, and after referring to the diagram, she placed
them onto the marble slab.
Although she tried to, she couldn’t shake the feeling she was
being watched as she worked, and when the breeze gently working
its way through the trees suddenly stopped, a chill ran down her
spine. She wiped the sweat out of her eyes and decided it was time
to act. Below the diagram was some handwritten text titled The
Awakening Invocation. She read the spell she had been practicing
for the past several weeks and feeling sure she had it correct, she
chanted in ancient Greek.

“Oh, sweet inspirations, in eternal sleep,
I, the soul unworthy, call you from your keep, 10 V.C. Birlidis

~ e ~
Remove thy self to bestow Zeus’ power
And deliver my birthright this golden hour
For what was stolen, be now restored
Or else feel my sorrow, forever more.”

Several sparks of lights crackled and then extinguished
themselves in the ancient rusted torches dangling from the stone
walls. Both exterior iron doors slammed into the vestibule walls.
She jumped, nearly dropping the book, as they banged open again
and again with such force their rusted hinges snapped and the
doors flew into the main worship space. Wincing, as the echoes off
the temple’s walls made her ears ring, she picked up the bunch of
herbs and flicked the lighter open.
Click. Click. Click. “Shoot. After years of lighting Yiayia’s nasty
cigars, now you decide not to work.” She shook the lighter, hoping
it would help the flint to catch. Click. Click. Click.
The lighter sparked, producing a large flame and she lit the
bundle of herbs. She breathed in the fragrant smoke and threw the
smoking bouquet into the round tiled pit in front of the altar. The
sense of being watched was almost suffocating and she glanced
around the room. She saw nothing, but right as she was about to
push the thought out of her mind she heard a low guttural growl.
She fought every ounce of her instinct to turn around and began
chanting again.

“Oh, sweet inspirations, in eternal sleep,
I, the soul unworthy, call you from your keep,
Remove thyself to bestow Zeus’ power—”

The torches sputtered again, but remained dark. The deep
growl came again, except it was louder now and coming from
several places in the room. She continued her chanting and did
her best to speak in clear and even tones.

“And deliver my birthright this golden hour
For what was stolen, be now restored
Or else feel my sorrow, forever more.”

She whimpered, her hands shaking as she noticed the room
becoming even darker, the remaining light coming from the Muse Unexpected 11

~ e ~
candles and the burning herbs.
Georgia raised her eyes. Crouched in a large tree was one of the
courtyard statues, except it was far from motionless. The thing
glared at her, its mouth open in a silent scream. It moved from left
to right and then stood on its perch. It leapt into the air and
slammed onto the floor with such force the root-covered tiles
shattered beneath it. It paused for a second and then moved
toward her.
Frightened, she turned her head away and came face-to-face
with an equally frightening statue, inches away from her, its face
caught in the same silent scream. Spinning, she tried to find an
escape route, but she was surrounded by numerous other
courtyard statues either working their way towards her or
jumping from higher points in the temple, their impact shaking
the floor beneath her. Black, shiny, lifeless eyes stared at her with
rage, their moss-covered mouths dripping with a rust-colored
slime as the creatures gnashed their jagged teeth.
She froze, unable to take her eyes off them as they paced back
and forth in front of her.
“Guardians,” she whispered. She had read something about
them, but in her panic she couldn’t recall –
Suddenly, she remembered something. Careful not to move too
quickly, she reached over and grabbed a handful of salt and threw
it at the creatures. They roared in pain, the salt sizzling on their
skin, creating seeping wounds. After checking the book again, she
saw a figure holding a round object, with light coming from the
center of it. The guardians were also added to the drawing,
appearing to crouch in fear and pain. Georgia grabbed the final
package from the altar. She ripped off the wrapping and in her
hand she gripped the only piece of jewelry Yiayia owned. It was a
gold brooch, with a red stone. Its gold and jeweled surface
shimmered in the candlelight.
One of the creatures caught a glimpse of the brooch and rushed
at her. As it reached the stone circle, the statue’s eroded face
smacked against an invisible force and it crashed to the floor
howling. This angered the others and they all rushed forward, but
they encountered the same invisible wall. Ignoring their attempts,
she searched the book for help. The book had once again changed,
except now every ancient page was completely blank. Disgusted,
she threw it down. 12 V.C. Birlidis

~ e ~
“The answer has to be obvious,” she said. “Yiayia wouldn’t have
done this to me. She wouldn’t send me on this journey to fail.”
The guardians reacted violently to the brooch. Maybe it could
help keep them away or help me read the book.
Georgia held it in front of her, making sure to catch the firelight
and as she predicted, pinpoints of light shone around the room.
The guardians screamed in pain, as the light caressed their rocky
This can’t be it.
The guardians had moved towards the opposite end of the
chamber for protection, but she knew it was just a matter of time
before they would regain their confidence, and she didn’t know
how long the salt or the candles would last. She flipped through
the still-blank book, testing the brooch’s prism effect in case it
might uncover the now hidden text, but nothing she tried seemed
to work.
Tears welled in her eyes as she realized she had lost complete
control of the situation. She closed the book and hugged it close to
her heart.
“Please, Yiayia. Help me. Tell me what I need to do.”
A breeze rustled through the trees and the scent of wild
jasmine surrounded her. A single name burned its way through
her confusion.
Athena. The goddess’ name produced a spark in her mind,
which blossomed into fireworks as all of the stories Yiayia had
ever told her came flooding back.
“Athena, I beg you, help me. I know I’m not worthy to call you
from the heavens. Athena, please grant me an audience. Please,
The guardians surrounded her on all sides; their grotesque
mouths open as the rust-colored slime oozed down their torsos
and dripped onto the floors, sizzling on impact. One legless
guardian scraped its body toward the edge of the circle, its eyes in
line with Georgia’s and its once slackened mouth now even more
grotesque as it grinned horribly back at her.
“Death, little one,” it said with a gravelly, rock scraping against
rock voice. It spoke in a strange dialect of Greek Georgia could
follow with some difficulty.
“We shall tear you apart, piece by piece, and feed on you while
you scream for mercy.” Muse Unexpected 13

~ e ~
Without thinking, she grabbed another handful of salt and
flung it at the talking statue.
“Oh, shut up,” she shouted.
The guardian laughed, in spite of the sizzling sores the salt
caused. It crawled closer, careful to avoid the circle of stones, then
leaned in so the moss-ichor dripping from its wounds seeped onto
them. The slime sparked and bit-by-bit ate away at the marble.
In frustration, she threw the remaining salt into its face and the
guardian reeled back and fell over screaming.
“Athena, I call to you.” She raised her arms upward. “I beg you
to come to my aid.”
She scrambled onto the altar, unhooked the brooch’s sharp pin
and, taking a deep breath, jammed it into her palm and scraped it
toward her wrist.
“Athena, I give you my pain, my blood, even the most precious
object I have, as an offering to you.” She threw the brooch into the
fire and raised her head towards the heavens. “Please Athena,
hear my call. Come to me, now.”
Georgia could feel the tears collect in the corners of her eyes.
She blinked hard, attempting to keep them deep inside, but she
was losing faith. One of the guardians kicked away a marble stone,
breaching the protective circle and she waited for what she knew
would be a painful death. Looking towards the heavens and
kneeling down on the altar, she let her arms drop to her sides,
with her palms facing forward. Following her mother’s example,
she began reciting the Lord’s Prayer, over and over again.
As her voice echoed off the walls, she saw the white dove that
had been watching her from its roost, take flight. It soared into the
air, its body taking on a silvery tone and glowing with a
shimmering light. The guardians froze. The bird circled the room
twice and then made a spiraling dive as it grew in size. Within
seconds, it was twice as tall as even the largest guardian; with a
wing span double its height. The glow from the dove’s feathered
body filled the chamber and the guardians bowed down, moaning
and screaming in frustration.
Feathers morphed into flesh, talons melted into legs and the
creature’s shape took on a more human female form covered by a
long tunic and plates of silver, feathery armor. As the being’s feet
touched the ground her wings folded behind her and melted away.
The feathers around her face grew into a long mane of dark brown 14 V.C. Birlidis

~ e ~
hair. Her head was crowned with a shining silver headpiece.
She pulled out a long sword with a large red jewel at the bottom
of the hilt.
“Enough.” The goddess shouted at the guardians, her voice
making the very trees tremble at the sound of it. With one
enormous thrust, she plunged her sword into the ground and a
blast of light shot from it, sweeping over Georgia and beyond the
altar. It washed over the guardians, who moaned and shuddered
as cracks formed on their exterior shell. The guardians began to
glow and there was a moment of deadening silence before they
exploded, sending shards of stone in every direction.
Georgia cowered and covered her head, but when she didn’t
feel the impact or any pain, she opened her eyes. The room was
filled with flower petals, floating in all directions, reminding her of
the military parades she had once seen as a child. There was no
trace of the guardians.
She faced the goddess, falling to her knees in gratitude.
The goddess walked closer.
“Child,” Athena began, with a calm and gentle tone. “Why have
you summoned me? This modern world has lost its way and I
grow weary of seeing its destruction by the hand of man caused by
his hunger for war.”
“Forgive me, wise goddess. Forgive a believer, who is not
worthy,” Georgia replied.
“Do not be coy with me child. I am no fool. You have taken a
journey, fraught with risk. You summoned the guardians of this
temple, which is a great feat of magic for someone who knows
nothing of such things. I do not know what you are, but I can say
with great certainty, you are not unworthy. I see your thoughts as
clear as if they were my own. You come here for what was once
yours, but was taken away. A birthright.”
“Yes, Athena,” Georgia began. “For as long as I can remember,
I have been told of our family’s history. I am told we are
descendants of the Muses themselves and I have—”
“You are not the first to beseech me with such claims of glory,”
Athena interrupted, examining Georgia. “Why should I believe
you, above all of the many who have claimed similar birthrights?
Do you dare to believe you are any different from those who are
more worthy?”
Knowing her time was limited, Georgia paused, wracking her Muse Unexpected 15

~ e ~
brain for the right response. She knew Athena was known for her
compassion, but she also knew even the compassionate Athena
could be temperamental. She reached down and picked up
Yiayia’s book.
“In here is our family history,” Georgia said, looking down at
the restored pages of her book, which were now filled with the
recently missing text and drawings.
Athena interrupted with a dismissive motion of her hand,
tearing the book from Georgia’s grip and sending it skidding
across the temple floor.
“I know this book. It is full of mere words written on a page.
Stories told to a grandchild do not a birthright make. Careful,
child, I have damned others for doing much less than wasting my
time with fairytales. I once blinded a man, who by accident
glanced at me while I bathed in a hidden lake.”
Georgia’s cheeks burned with embarrassment and tears swelled
in her eyes.
Athena stepped closer and took Georgia’s bleeding hand into
her own. A tingling warmth washed over Georgia’s wounded hand
and she lifted it and watched the wound close up and heal.
“Thank you, Athena. I am who I claim to be, a descendent of
the—” Georgia began again.
The room darkened. “Do not waste my time, girl,” the goddess
spoke the words through a hiss. “Although no temples are built in
my honor anymore, I am even more significant and powerful
today than ever.”
Georgia searched the goddess’ face, trying to understand what
Athena wanted, but then her gaze shifted toward what remained
of her smoldering herb bundle with the brooch in the middle.
Georgia reached for it, surprised to find it cold to the touch. An
idea shot through her mind, something Yiayia had said to her
about an answer to a question being found in the question itself.
She humbly placed the pin on the ground in front of the goddess.
“You know I speak the truth,” Georgia said and Athena glared
in response. The room darkened further.
“Forgive me,” Georgia began. “You are wisest among the gods.
You said you have continued to receive the prayers of others. That
many have called upon you with similar claims of birthrights
linking them to the gods.”
Athena’s manner softened. “Yes, they call to me, begging for 16 V.C. Birlidis

~ e ~
help. These voices, throughout centuries, beseech me to deliver
them from their misery and unto the heavens. I even hear those
who walk in the Valley of the Shades.”
Georgia looked into Athena’s eyes. They were like dark
chocolate vats, flickering with flecks of starlight. Keeping her voice
steady and unemotional, she said, “I was once told that sometimes
the answers I seek can be found in the questions I ask. I ask you,
Athena, why me? Out of the thousands you hear, why answer my
If I weren’t speaking the truth, Georgia thought, how would a
goddess know of Yiayia’s book? A book handed down for
generations to be kept safe. A book containing magic so strong
its pages change at will. Athena had to know it was the book
giving me directions and spells to take on this journey.
“I was meant to do this,” Georgia continued. “And if I was
meant to do this, clearly directed to do it by the gods, then how
can you deny me?”
Although the goddess remained still, the room lightened and
Georgia continued, “Restore what is rightfully mine. For too long I
have wandered with a veil covering my eyes and I beg to have it
removed. Forgive me for saying this, but the answer to your
question is found in the mere fact that you stand before me,
asking it.”
Athena reached down and picked up Georgia’s brooch. It
seemed tiny in the goddess’ hand, but glowed brightly, and Athena
“Clever girl. You are a very clever girl.” With one blurred
motion, Athena reached behind her and removed the sword from
where it stood and threw the brooch into the air. As it fell back
toward her, she swung her sword, shattering it, the sparkling
pieces shooting all over the room.
Georgia stopped herself from protesting the destruction of
Yiayia's broach as she noticed the roots gripping the Muses’
statues begin to unfurl and retract. Athena walked to the closest
statue and struck it at its base with her sword. The resulting crack
worked its way to the top of the statue; the marble façade
shattered and a woman in a flowing white gown flew out of the
debris. The Muse surged into the air, arching her back and
stretching her arms as if she had just woken from a nap. She fell
backward at a ferocious speed, stopping a few inches from the Muse Unexpected 17

~ e ~
ground, and placed her feet gently on the floor.
One by one, Muses emerged from their sleep, shattering their
marble prisons and soaring into the air as if they had been shot
out of a cannon, the space above Athena and Georgia looking like
the billowing sails of an armada as each Muse joined the group
gathering behind the goddess. Yiayia’s jeweled pin reappeared
with a crack of lightning and clattered into the tiled pit. Georgia
rushed to retrieve it, holding it close to her heart.
Athena turned her back on Georgia and spoke with her fellow
Olympians. The old book, which had been forgotten, shook
violently and slid across the floor, stopping at Georgia’s feet. It
slammed itself open, hitting the ground with a loud thud and
Georgia glanced down to see the words and diagrams begin to
melt and swim on the page. The ink raised itself off the page,
collecting into a large pool mid-air. It surged towards Georgia and
she gasped as it took the form of a woman, wearing a heavy black
gown and a long, flowing black veil. Both the gown and veil
appeared to have no end. The stranger did not acknowledge either
Georgia or the goddesses, but walked toward the tiled pit, where
she chanted, swaying side to side, raising her arms towards the
heavens. The room grew brighter and Athena and the Muses
ceased their conversation to watch with apparent anticipation.
One of the Muses whispered the name “Aletheria” and another
murmured “the Oracle.” Georgia wondered where she had heard
those names before.
Aletheria made a horizontal movement with her hand and the
ashes and remaining debris in the pit flew across the room and
rested at the base of a column. She threw into the pit several
pieces of what appeared to be small rocks and the pieces rose from
the floor, assembling midair in the pattern in which they had
landed. Georgia crossed herself, fearing the woman might be evil.
But then she remembered Aletheria was an Oracle, a powerful
witch, someone Yiayia's oldest stories had mentioned – a magic
rooted in her own family tree.
But that was centuries ago. Aletheria, how could you possibly
be here? I guess anything is possible in this temple.
Aletheria spoke, her English heavily accented, her voice deep
and threatening.
“How dare you. How dare you begin this journey. You have
drawn me back to my former prison. For what? To witness your 18 V.C. Birlidis

~ e ~
foolish actions that could lead to the destruction of this world?
You have disturbed and defiled this temple and awakened Athena
and The Nine Daughters of Zeus by breaking through the veil
separating the Olympians from this world. Do you know what risk
you have taken? By calling them forth, you have risked setting
others free. Others that were locked away for the sake of
Georgia stood seething, her face flushed with heat.
“You have corrupted the thread the Fates had for you, and now
you have two paths to select from. This path is a curse never
meant for my descendants. It will lead to great peril for your soul.
There are others meant to carry this burden, and yet you come
rushing forward to embrace it. My foolish child, my dearest
foolish child, do you understand what you are asking from these
Georgia walked a little closer to Aletheria. “Yes, I do,” she said.
The woman pointed at the girl, which sent the masonry pieces
flying towards her. They hung in the air inches away. Georgia
could see the pieces were polished stone etched with ancient
Greek letters. As Aletheria walked toward Georgia, they orbited
around the girl.
Aletheria opened her hand and the tiles stopped and fell into
her palm. The Oracle glanced at them and shook her head, “Do
you not see Athena is using you to enforce her will onto this
world? Her actions are as selfish as your own. You see this choice,
this path as a way to escape to something better. But it also is
much more dangerous than your young mind can comprehend.
You must understand. You must have the clarity to see this
decision will change your life and the lives of your descendants.”
Aletheria bent her head towards Georgia and let out an
exasperated sigh. Again she threw the stones into the air to
encircle Georgia. She repeated this seven times, faster and faster,
until she pointed downward, making the stones fall to the ground
in front of the girl.
“The casting stones do not lie. I see two choices. One choice is
filled with happiness, love and family. It is a long and prosperous
life.” Aletheria crouched down to examine the tiles.
“I also see another choice, full of moments of incredible glory
and excitement that are overshadowed by a journey filled with
great sorrow, regret and risk. I look into your eyes and see the Muse Unexpected 19

~ e ~
temptation and hunger growing inside of you. You will risk
everything to satisfy this hunger for power and glory. Do not do
Georgia looked at Aletheria and shook her head. “I know who
you are and I have heard your warnings, but no matter how
powerful you are, I have free will and claim this as my destiny.
Fate has placed me here. I will not be denied. Like so many others,
you would have me grovel for whatever crumbs this miserable life
would give to me. I refuse to live like my mother, made bitter by a
husband who abandoned his family for another woman. I refuse
to end my life as an old woman in a crumbling villa, in an old,
black dress, with a face lined with many years of starvation and
worry. You are a fool to think I would accept this, Aletheria. Now,
go away.”
Aletheria grabbed Georgia’s arm, her touch strong and cold as
her nails dug into Georgia’s flesh.
“Georgia, you are damned by your own greed. One day, you will
remember my warning and wish you had listened,” the Oracle
said, as the hand holding onto Georgia transformed into blacken
ash. “Remember my words and understand that those you love
will come to curse your name.”
Horrified, Georgia tried to yank her arm free as she watched
Aletheria’s face collapsing into itself, exposing her skull
underneath. The witch was disintegrating before her eyes. Georgia
scrambled away from what remained of the Oracle.
The trees and jasmine vines swayed, as the room dimmed
again. The nine women faced Georgia with hands joined, as a
strong wind swept across the sanctuary. The wind gathered
Aletheria’s ashes and bones into the air and held the debris
suspended, creating out of them a ceiling of dark clouds that
cracked with lightning and thunder.
Georgia backed away as the nine women glided toward her,
their gowns creating a billowing white cloud behind them. The
storm grew stronger and lightning bolts struck throughout the
room. Athena stood among them, smirked, then raised her arms
and disappeared into an explosion of light.
The Muses, whose feet still did not touch the floor, surrounded
Georgia. She was terrified. Some of the women chanted, others
sang, as their voices joined into a single wall of sound. Their
bodies floated around her. 20 V.C. Birlidis

~ e ~
“I’m ready,” Georgia shouted above the roar of the wind.
The Muses circled faster and faster, seeming to merge into a
single, blurry form. A Muse crowned with a wreath of grapevines
broke away and moved closer.
In ancient Greek the Muse said, “Forgive me.”
Before Georgia had time to ask what she needed to be forgiven
for, the first of nine lightning bolts struck her.


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V.C. Birlidis was born and raised in Miami, Florida and has always been involved in the arts. He attended the New World School of the Arts and was a member of The Miami Ballet.

Mr. Birlidis moved to Ohio to attend college where he earned his Bachelor's degree in marketing and communications from Capital University. He currently is the Director of Marketing at one of the top midwest advertising agencies, SBC Advertising. He has freelanced as a writer for Outlook News and Tickled Pink Magazine, where he wrote a comical advice column named Ask V.

Five years in the making and inspired by the numerous Greek myths his father would utilize as demented bed time stories, Muse, Unexpected is Mr. Birlidis' first novel. It is the first book in his Muse series.

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