“The Crown of Zeus” by Christine Norris
Publication Date: February 19, 2008
Cover art by Christine Clavel
Which is worse: Having to start life over, or being eaten by a Minotaur?
The Library of Athena, Book One
Thirteen-year-old Megan Montgomery’s world is falling apart. Her father’s promotion means leaving her whole life in New York behind. She finds herself transplanted to a huge, lonely manor house in the English countryside, with no one for company but the distant staff. Her new school only adds to her misery—neither the girls nor the teachers seem to like her.
Then Megan meets three girls who actually talk to her instead of about her, and at first she thinks things are getting better. But the girls seem more interested in the strange rumors that the house is haunted. Desperate to make friends, Megan invites them to sleep over for the weekend.
A discovery of a cryptic poem, a key and a diary written by the builder of the manor—an eccentric archaeologist—turns the sleepover into a treasure hunt. Clues lead the girls to believe the Parthenon holds a great secret—and suddenly they find themselves sucked into one man’s version of Ancient Greece. The only way home is to find an object thought to be mere legend.
If they survive that long.
Christine Norris is the author of several works for children and adults. She spends her time divided between her writing, substitute teaching, and caring for her family of one husband-creature, a son-animal, a large dog whose greatest achievement is sleeping in one position for an entire day, and a small feline who is very adept in his position as Guardian of the Bathtub. She also works at English Adaptations of novels translated from other languages.
To learn more about Christine Norris, please visit http://www.christine-norris.com. Send an email to Christine at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her MySpace page, at http://www.myspace.com/christinenorris.
EXCERPT #2 (Cross-promo)
“Can I help you?”
“Ah, yes.” Megan squared her shoulders and tried to stand up straight. “I’m Megan Montgomery. I’m a new student and this is my first day. They said I had to report to you.”
The woman shuffled through the papers on her desk and pulled out a manila folder. “Yes, of course. The girl from
A thick burgundy rug muffled Megan’s footsteps as she walked to one of a pair of high-backed chairs in front of the desk. She tried to look graceful as she sat down.
“Welcome to St. Agatha’s.” The woman gave a smile that reminded Megan of a cat who has just found a juicy mouse. She folded her hands on the desk, sat up straight, and looked Megan in the eye. “I am Miss Spencer, the headmistress.”
“Nice to meet you.”
Miss Spencer nodded. “Since you are from
“Yes, ma’am.” Megan had never really called anyone ‘ma’am’ before, but Miss Spencer looked like someone who she should. “I’m in the eighth grade.”
Miss Spencer’s smile widened a bit, but it was still a smile that looked put-on for company. “It’s ‘yes, Headmistress’. And we don’t have ‘grades’ here. You are in third year.” The headmistress picked up the file and walked around to Megan’s side of the desk. “I’ve looked over your transcripts, and everything appears to be in order. But I must warn you, Miss Montgomery. Here things are going to be much tougher than they were at your old school. This institution is a tradition among many families from all over the world.”
“The world?” Megan asked. “Do their families all move here so they can go to school?”
Miss Spencer laughed like a parent whose small child just did or said something cute and silly. “No, no, of course not, dear. Some, like you, are day students, while others live in our dormitories. We pride ourselves on turning out the finest young ladies. To that end, you will be taking more subjects than you are used to, including Latin.”
“Latin?” Who speaks Latin?
“Yes. As well as Music, Math, World History, Science, Literature, Philosophy, Geography and Art. You will also be in a House.” She flipped open the file. “I’ve placed you in Whitmore. Your House contains about twenty girls from each year. Your Head is Professor Livingston, she teaches History. If you have problems in school, academic or personal, go to her. Each house also meets twice a week for tutoring and study.”
“I see.” Megan’s stomach felt as if it would drop out of her feet at any moment. All those classes, plus forced study? Megan had held her own at her old school, but she wasn’t exactly a straight-A student. I’m in trouble.
“I notice you played hockey at your old school as well,” Miss Spencer continued, oblivious to Megan’s nervousness. “You might try out for the House team. It’s one of the best in the county. If you enjoy horses, we also have an exceptional equestrian team.”
I’ll run right out and sign up for that. Not.
She handed Megan a piece of paper. “Here’s your schedule. I suggest you get to class. The late bell is about to ring.”
Megan took the paper and looked it over. “Thank you, Headmistress.” She slung her bag over her shoulder and walked to the door. She wondered what would happen if she just kept running, right out the front door.
Megan’s first class was Literature. She found the classroom and opened the door. A stern-looking man with slicked back dark hair turned and stared at her with small black eyes.
“May I help you?” he drawled. His pasty face wore a look of utter distaste, as if wondering who dared interrupt his class.
“Uh, yes sir. My name is Megan Montgomery. I’m new.” She handed him her schedule.
He glanced, sniffed, and handed it back to her. “Ah, yes. Very well, take a seat. And do not be tardy to my class again.”
Megan felt her cheeks get hot, and thought about telling him that it wasn’t her fault she was late, but decided against it. She found a desk at the back of the room and took out her textbook. From one of the desks to her right she heard a snicker.
“Do not expect special treatment because you are new. Or because you are from
“Yes, sir.” She slumped down into her seat and tried to make herself as small as possible.
The rest of Megan’s first day was much the same. The classes here were certainly different than at her old school. For one thing, students were expected to stand when they gave the answer to a question. Her teachers were not “Mrs. or Mr.” but “Professor.” Most of them were very strict, and demanded much more than her old teachers.
Her schedule was packed. The first day alone she had World History, Intermediate Math, Latin, and Philosophy in addition to Literature. Most the teachers referred to her as “The American Girl” several times before remembering her name.
They all piled on the homework.
At lunch, she sat alone, because of course she didn’t know anyone and no one offered to sit with her. And she saw the pointing and whispering that went on; most didn’t even try to hide it.
Megan tried to hold it together, but it was hard to ignore the fact that she was on display like some kind of freak show. She picked at her lunch, unable to eat, and sympathizing with every new kid she had ever seen at her old school.
I want to go home. She meant to
After school, Megan stood on the front steps of St. Agatha’s, waiting for her ride home, wondering how much a one-way ticket from Heathrow to JFK cost. She was miserable and had a ton of homework; her backpack felt like it was going to rip her shoulder off.
She shifted her bag to the other shoulder and watched a group of six girls clustered nearby. She had seen a couple of them in her classes, and was pretty sure they were in her year, but didn’t know any of their names.
She watched out of the corner of her eye as they whispered intently between themselves and took furtive glances in her direction. Megan couldn’t hear what they were talking about, but she sure knew who. Just like at lunch. Don’t they have anything better to do?
She allowed this to go on for a few minutes, appearing oblivious to their whisperings. Finally she had enough. She whipped her head around and marched over to them.
“Excuse me.” She walked right up to the tallest girl. “Is there a problem?”
Three of the girls turned bright red, took a few steps back, and slunk away, their heads down, leaving their three co-conspirators behind.
Proper English girls don’t gossip, do they? Megan gave a wide smile that dripped with sugar.
“There’s no problem, is there, girls?” the tall one said in a flat tone, still toe-to-toe with Megan.
“Well, I think there is.” Megan’s smile was gone. “You’ve all been giggling and talking about me behind my back. Care to share?”
The girl licked her lips. “We were just wondering…”
“About what? My accent, my shoes, or my hair maybe?”
The girl pushed a lock of her straight black hair behind her ear, unfazed. “Ah, no, actually. We were wondering about your house.”
It was Megan’s turn to step back. “My House? Oh, I’m in, uh, Whitmore, I think?”
The girls giggled. Megan felt like she had missed the punchline of a joke, and her cheeks burned.
It was the girl with short brown hair and glasses who replied. “No, not your academic House, your house. You know, where you live?”
Megan lifted her eyebrows, confused. “You want to know about…my…house?”
The third girl, a pretty blonde with loose, shoulder-length curls, pulled her Burberry purse up higher on her shoulder. “You do live in the big manor house on
“The Parthenon,” Megan corrected. “What about it?” It wasn’t the conversation she expected, but she was kind of happy they were actually talking to her.
The dark-haired girl pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes, also seeming to choose her words carefully. “We wanted to know, you see, er, whether or not you’ve seen anything…anything strange since you’ve been there?”
“What do you mean, strange? Like African artifacts strange? Or like bad decorating strange?”
“Oh, no, nothing like that,” the second girl said. She pushed her thick glasses up her long nose. She gave a furtive look. “Like ghosts. Unhappy spirits roaming about the halls at night.”