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Writing means different things to me. I'm a storyteller, a book editor, and a songwriter. For me, it's like breathing.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Monday Musings: The Crow Maiden--Crows in Greek Mythology

Crows and ravens appear in myths from all different cultures, usually as harbingers of death because of their appearance on battlefields and their diet of carrion. They are also seen as messengers between humans and that of the supernatural realm.

In Greek mythology, the crow is associated with the god Apollo because of his role as a god of prophecy. Augury, divination using birds, was popular among Greeks and Romans. Augurs interpreted messages based on the color of the bird and the direction from which it flew. A crow flying in from the east or south was considered a favorable sign. Another myth involving the crow and Apollo reveals that the crow’s feathers were turned black because the god became enraged when the bird brought back news that Apollo’s lover Coronis had been unfaithful, and the god scorched the crow’s wings.

A French anthropologist named Claude Lévi-Strauss proposed a theory that suggests the raven (like the coyote) obtained mythic status because it was a mediator animal between life and death. As a carrion bird, ravens became associated with the dead and with lost souls. This is what I used as a basis for my heroine in The Crow Maiden. Nahla is cursed to be bound to her cruel master and to the Shadowlands, the place between life and death. She haunts battlefields and guides dying warriors’ souls to the afterlife. She can also see when someone is about to die. Despite being surrounded by death, she is also a healer and has a kind soul, not what one would expect from a female surrounded by such darkness.

Excerpt (PG-13)
She glanced around at the dim cave. Cobwebs glistened from the dark corners. With some cleaning, it could be a pleasant dwelling. It was the size of a small house with round corners and smaller alcoves. She compared the cave to the unfortunate places she called home—blood-spattered battlefields, places the dead and dying gathered, and her master’s bedchamber. “No, this is much improved over the usual places I call home.”
He regarded her with a curious glint in his eyes. “What did you ask for?”
“I also asked for revenge. I wished for a champion to kill the man I hate.” This tall man wore his blond shoulder-length hair in the fashion of warriors, with war braids twisted within his unruly locks framing each side of his face. She recalled the neglected-looking war shield and armor in the back area of the cave. Had he been a warrior before his injury?
“And I suppose I do not fit your standards?” He gave her a faint sneer, his eyes hard and grim.
“Not exactly.”
He let out a scornful laugh.
She bristled. Was he mocking her? She allowed him a slight, tight smile.
“This man. What did he do to you?” His expression darkened.
“He has imprisoned me.”
“But if you are here, then you are free.” He studied her with a furrowed brow.
“I wish that were so.” The accursed bond was still there, a loosely tethered rope that could tighten at any moment, pulling her back to her master. “I am free only until he summons me, but I suppose this place is much improved over the Shadowlands.” She wandered to the cave opening. Bright sunlight temporarily blinded her. Ah, yes, warm sun and sweet, flowery scents. She took a deep breath of the intoxicating air.
He stepped to her side and regarded her with caution. “Shadowlands? What are you?”
She pressed her lips together. Should she tell him something so unbelievable? She decided she didn’t care if he believed her or not. “I have many names, but I think everyone calls me the Crow Maiden.”
He measured her with eyes that reflected doubt. “The Crow Maiden is not human. She’s an apparition, seen only by dying warriors on the battlefield.”
Most mortals cowered in the presence of a being such as she who could move between the realms of the living and the dead. Some gripped weapons in trembling hands in feeble attempts to protect themselves. Not this man. The axe he’d held to her neck lay on the ground instead of clutched in his hand, and no part of his body trembled.
He had courage. Her champion would need to have the heart of a lion. A promising sign. A warm flame of hope stirred and rekindled within.
“I am human.” She spoke the words softly, more to herself than to the stranger. As the Crow Maiden, she hadn’t felt any different, and somewhere inside, Nahla still lived, though she had acquired some preternatural abilities that placed her beyond that of a human. “And I am not an apparition. Touch me and see for yourself.”
He touched her shoulder and then considered her with a pensive expression. “Why do you think I was able to summon you? Am I about to die?” Again he showed no fear, his tone indifferent, as though he asked her about something as mundane as the weather. Another favorable sign.
“Not in the immediate future.” She pursed her lips. “I’ve been wondering why you were able to summon me…” Before he called for her, she had made a wish. “Did you ask a god for this revenge you desire?”
“I did.” He rubbed his bearded chin. “I asked Artemis.”
That hopeful flame rose higher. “So did I.”
They had been brought together for a reason, but it didn’t make sense that a crippled man would be the one chosen to defeat a powerful man like her master.
He gave her a sidelong glance. “Are you thinking what I am thinking?”
“Perhaps not,” she muttered and then said in a clear voice, “Share your thoughts with me.”
“If we both asked Artemis for help, then perhaps she’s the one who brought us together.” He shook his head and frowned. “Though I do not understand why since you are not the man I want to destroy.”
Outside the cave, a crow called to her, its harsh, ominous caw repeating the one word already echoing inside her head. Revenge. They both sought revenge. There was only one name she associated with retribution. “Who is this man you seek to destroy?”
“Aramon,” he rasped through clenched teeth.
An icy shiver touched her spine. “I know why Artemis brought us together.” She lowered her gaze to the man’s damaged leg. “Though I am not certain if she is sincere or mocking us.”
His mouth curved up in a sneer. “And why is that?”
“Because Aramon is the man who holds me captive.”

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The Crow Maiden
Book 3: The Arcadia Series
(The Crow Maiden is a standalone story in the Arcadia Series)

She betrayed her goddess for him…
He betrayed her.
Plotting her revenge is her only solace. Until now.

Nahla is the Crow Maiden, an Arcadian, and once a priestess of Artemis. Now she is a captive, a being who lives in the shadows until her vile master the sorcerer-king Aramon summons her. Another releases her from the Shadowlands, and while he might be the champion she has waited for, the gods must be playing a cruel joke. Her champion is crippled.

An Achaean lord who once ruled a great city, Balin is a broken man. He has lost everything—his kingdom and his family. Revenge consumes him. Although wary of the mysterious, cold-eyed female who appears and claims he summoned her, she may be his only hope to exact vengeance on the king who ruined him, the same man Nahla seeks to destroy.

They are bound by revenge, and soon, both learn they are bound by much more, but the secrets she hides might tear them apart and ruin their only opportunity for vengeance—and their chance to love again.

“Ms. Heckart draws the reader into the pages and enchants them with her words.”
Karen McGill, Coffee Time Romance

Kelley Heckart
Otherworldly tales steeped in myth, magic & romance.

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