Book Excerpt: Sinon of Kirra, by Stephen Lalonde

Author Stephen Lalonde

Sinon had to wait until the one day in June that the Pythia would again sit on the tripod. His father was proud of him for making the decision to take the journey on his own this time and had given him the coins that Sinon had secured in a bag under his chiton. Those were for the Pythia in order to make his request. Once the request was made, he knew that the Pythia would sit upon her tripod, become entranced and speak the words of the god Apollo. This, too, was frightening to him. So many had received answers they did not want to hear, and those things always came to pass regardless of any effort to avert them. He was hoping to be one of the lucky ones to receive an encouraging prophecy.

Kirra was bustling with activity as Sinon led the goat through the streets. Some of the men who had just disembarked from a boat that had docked this morning were moving along with him, some with goats in tow, others hoping to get to the Pythia without bringing a goat.

The vendors in the agora clamored constantly, touting their goods to the people going about making their purchases for the day. Laughing children in dusty clothes chased each other among the people, animals and carts. The smell of smoke and sizzling lamb, the colorful arrangements of olives, figs and grapes, and the fish cooking over beds of red-hot coals all flooded his senses. He had olives, cheese and dried fish wrapped in a cloth tied to his waist and a small wineskin hung from his shoulder. He bowed his head to avoid eye contact with the men trying to get his attention, as they waved their goods high in the air and called out to him and the other travelers.

Moving quickly through the vendors to the northern edge of Kirra, Sinon stepped onto the rocky path leading toward Delphi. He was glad there were several others going this way, as having others around him made him feel less fearful. Gradually the cacophony of life in the village gave way to the sounds of the countryside. The gravel on the path crunched under the feet of the travelers. There was the constant bleating of the goats, occasionally a flutter of wings as a bird flew by, and there was conversation among the other travelers, some in languages he did not know. Even though it was still early in the day, beads of sweat began to roll down his forehead. This would be a long hike uphill as he worked his way along the path. He stopped for a moment and looked back at the town and the sea, now far below him. At least the return would be less strenuous.

Some time later, about midday, he had reached the edge of Delphi. None of the people who were busy with their day asked anything of him or any of the others coming with goats. No doubt they were quite used to this procession once a month for nine months of the year, the months that Apollo reigned supreme in this place. Dionysos owned the other three months, the winter months. The rites were much different during that time, with the maidens of his cult moving gradually into their terrifying celebration of the god of the vine. That was something to avoid witnessing as the wildly ecstatic girls rendered living animals skinless in a bloody revelry. He had heard the stories of those crazed girls from the men and older boys of Kirra, some who had seen it.

Sinon had come along the path of the Sacred Way just a month ago, yet he was no less awestruck by the painted marble statues, the stone treasuries with bands of brightly colored relief scenes, and blood-stained altars along the street. Priests were oiling the Omphalos stone, that stone bearing the center of the universe, as he walked slowly by. Even the goats stopped bleating while they passed, as though they understood the reverence of this place.

Apollo’s chariot began its descent as Sinon reached the Spring of Castalia. When it was his turn, he filled the amphora from the stream and held his breath as he poured the cold water on his goat. It immediately shivered and shook the water off, the spray forming a cool mist on Sinon’s face and arms.

“Praise Apollo,” he said under his breath. Next, he had to bathe in the stream to be purified. Sinon tied the goat to a shrub, and it began to chew on the leaves. He disrobed, carefully placing his food, wine skin and coin bag under his chiton and in plain sight of the stream. He didn’t want to lose anything now that he would get his chance to consult the oracle. The icy water of the stream bit his skin as he dipped completely below the surface to be rinsed by the sacred water. Jumping up and out of the stream, he stood for a moment shivering like the goat, and then moved into a spot where bright sunshine warmed and dried him as he turned around and back around, before putting his chiton on and preparing to move to the shrine.

Stephen Lalonde is a retired teacher. He has a diverse employment history including truck and combine driver, lifeguard, custodian, mechanic, machinist, franchise developer, car salesman, musician, electronics technician, Scouting executive, teacher and union president. His primary occupation for 29 years was high school teacher. He earned his BA in Education in 1972, Masters in Electronic Communications 1976, and his MA in Education in 1988. Stephen is a writer, amateur radio operator, wood worker, and an avid swimmer. All of these occupations and interests influence his writing. He lives in Spokane Valley with his wife, Audrey.

Because of Covid, I can’t arrange a book signing/ release, so until the dust settles on Covid, the book is only available directly from me. Anyone interested in buying a book can send an email to SteveL18@comcast.net or snail mail to: Ouranian Publishing of Spokane, 304 N. Adams Rd., Spokane Valley, WA 99216. The total cost (lower 48 only) is $13.80 to have a signed and personalized copy mailed to them. Paypal, Google pay and checks are okay.

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