: Brimstone and Water
Author: Sharon House
Format: Paperback & Electronic
Length: 264 pages
Publisher: Tate Publishing
Purchase at AMAZON
Orphaned as a toddler, Caralynn Davidson grieves the loss of her grandfather as she takes over the reins of the family estate near a small Swiss village, but the Brimstone and Water from millennia ago that destroyed an ancient civilization is about to change Caralynn’s life. She receives a letter from her grandfather, charging her with the mission of bringing an ancient soul to rest. “But I thought only God could bring a soul to rest,” she whispers with the loosely held pages still in her hand.
Mynah is Caralynn’s ancestor who is princess of Crete when the under gods attack. Mynah is transplanted into the exotic but foreign world of Egypt, where she learns that she can be welcomed into a new family but will never be able to rest until she is returned to her beloved Crete. Hoping that one day she will rejoin her family, Mynah tells her daughter and her daughter’s daughters that they must satisfy her ultimate desire
For generations, Mynah has visited the women in Caralynn’s family, and now Caralynn knows the time has come to visit Mynah herself. She learns in this compelling story about love and a soul crying out to be free that even Brimstone and Water cannot keep a family apart.
The sea crossed onto the land in a thunderous wave that reached far above the coastal towns and villages without warning. Ships that had weathered ocean storms and battles at sea were tossed and broken into splinters within minutes, as the fifty-foot wave heaved them against their moorings. Battle-hardened sailors were drowned in seconds from the wave’s fierce strength. The few that survived tried to help those who were injured only to become victims themselves when the next towering tsunami washed across the land and dragged them into the depths.
Mynah cried out in horror at the sight as she watched in stunned disbelief from high up the side of Mount Ida. How could the gods forsake us? Her mind screamed.
The Minoan Akrotiri settlement on the island of Thera sent word about the terrifying catastrophic volcanic eruption of Mount Thera. The earthquake it caused shook the very foundations of the earth and was felt in kingdoms far removed beyond the hills and valleys of the north. The few traveling survivors said the eruption that released the suffocating clouds of ash among them had spread with the god of the winds farther than the eye could see.
Could this be what brought about our own troubles? Mynah wondered. But why would the gods destroy that place and bring such devastation toward our people? Only the under gods bring brimstone from the center of the earth to torture and destroy those who do not obey and make sacrifice. Is what the Jewish traveler said true, that there is a living god and he brought this disaster to us? Our people must have food, or we will be no more. I fear the future. She trembled. I fear for my people.
Tears fell unheeded from innocent gray eyes streaking a crooked course over the pale olive skin of an unblemished face before dripping onto the neck of the black mourning dress. Grandfather, why did you have leave now? Caralynn clutched her sweater about her tightly as the mourners gathered near the gravesite.
The aging priest from the small Anglican Church looked up a moment at the grieving young woman as he sprinkled holy water into the open grave before reading from the tattered prayer book, “Give rest, O Christ, to thy servant with thy saints.”
“Where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting,” the mourners responded.
The service continued another ten minutes to the final words of the committal—but Caralynn barely heard them.
“In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to Almighty God our brother Peter; and we commit his body to the ground.”
The words continued to the end with those attending from the small town of Lugano, Switzerland, praying the Lord’s Prayer. Fr. Cragan dismissed those gather in the church cemetery to return to the centuries-old church for a luncheon and remembrances with the family.
“My dear,” Caralynn’s aunt Maria said, “don’t grieve so. Peter’s with God now.”
“Yes, I know, but I can’t help my tears. Grandfather and I were to travel soon, to share an adventure we’ll never know. And he’s the only father I remember,” she responded, looking down at the other gravestones alongside the place where Peter Gioni would rest.
“He’ll be with you in your heart. His spirit lives, and he is one with the body. I know of the trip he planned. He discussed it with me shortly before he fell ill. We’ll talk of it soon. Come now and let’s honor my brother’s memory with our friends.
The weeks that followed were a whirlwind of change and sadness. Caralynn and her aunt were busy settling Peter’s estate and talking back and forth with his lawyers about final debts to be paid and assets to be decided. The will was recently drawn, leaving the major portion of the estate to Caralynn with a generous annual allowance to his younger sister, Maria, who lived with them at Evensong, a property that dated back more than four hundred years. It had seen many renovations as indoor plumbing and electricity were updated over the years to meet current standards. The latest renovation brought the expansive kitchen up to 2012 modernity. A few small legacies to elderly servants concluded the final will and testament of Peter Gioni that would rest in the bank’s safety-deposit vault into perpetuity.
“Come in,” Caralynn said when there was soft knocking at the study door.
“Madam,” Chester, the only butler Caralynn had ever known said, “Mr. Franco from the bank for you.”
“Send him in, Chester,” Caralynn answered. She always liked the fact that someone from her father’s country lived in the house. Chester had come with her father from England before her parents met and stayed after the tragedy that took their lives that horrible day no one would talk about. Grandfather never really said what happened, she thought. But his only child died that day as well. Chester had stayed after his master was gone. But I always wondered why. She pushed the thoughts of out her mind and tried to look like a businesswoman when Mr. Franco entered the room.
“Miss Davidson, a pleasure to see you. Thank you for seeing me without an appointment.”
“What brings you to us, Mr. Franco?
“Your grandfather entrusted me with a letter for you, to be delivered once the business of the estate was concluded. He instructed me to ask that you read it when you are alone. The envelope was sealed when I received it, so I don’t know what the contents might be. I think it’s a note to tell you how much he loved you and wants your future happiness. Peter always carried your most recent pictures throughout your youth and was more than ready to show them to us at the bank. He was very proud of you.”
“Thank you for coming, Mr. Franco. It’s very kind of you,” Caralynn responded with a sad smile as the letter was handed over. “Papa was always here for me. I feel somewhat at a loss now that he’s gone. I still expect to see him coming into the room bigger than life,” she continued in distant thought, as she turned the letter over in her hands. “But please forgive my manners. May I offer you some tea, or perhaps you would prefer a glass of wine.”
“That’s most kind, Miss Davidson, but I must return to the bank for another appointment this afternoon. Please call on me if I can be of further service to you.”
“Thank you, Mr. Franco. I’ll walk with you to the door.”
“Who was that, Caralynn?” Maria asked, coming out of the sitting room.
“Oh, it was just Mr. Franco from the bank. He had some last-minute papers to deliver is all,” Caralynn answered, sliding the letter into her sweater pocket. “Shall we go have tea? I believe Cook has prepared some of those scones you like so well today.”
“That would be most delightful, yes…most delightful.”
After waiting patiently throughout the day, Caralynn finally closed the door to her bedroom near and slowly drew out of her sweater pocket the letter with her grandfather’s handwriting on it and laid it on the dressing table. What could he have to say to me? She wondered. I’ll read it in bed, like I used to read the stories he would make up for me when I was a little girl. Quickly preparing for bed, she arranged her pillows and drew the warm comforter over her before carefully slitting the envelope with the slender opener and withdrawing the white sheets of paper. It was dated a few weeks before his death. Closing her eyes a moment to stead her heart, she began to read.
My dearest Caralynn,
I am sorry we will not be able to share this adventure. I learned today that my time is short before I am called from this earthly existence. When you receive this, I will have left you, my dearest little one. But do not grieve; we will be together when Christ returns and lifts us to the place he has prepared.
It is important that you know what I found too painful to retell when your parents died—perhaps I have let you down by this. As you know, your father met my Rosa when she returned from her college studies a few months after he arrived. It was soon obvious they were in love and were married within a year. They lived with your aunt Maria and me, bringing youth and laughter into the house, sounds I had not known since Rosa left to complete her studies. Their greatest joy, and mine, was when you were born. You were three years old when they left you in my and Maria’s care to study the ancient Minoan ruins when their flight encountered an unexpected storm off the shores of Crete. Witnesses said the sound of tearing metal resembled the shriek of the unbeliever’s torture when lightning struck the plane and crashed into the bluffs along the sea. I could only think of the terror in my Rosa’s heart when she took her last breaths. I pray she and your father did now know what took place.
Some on the island say the accident was the result of the curse the Minoan high priest cast when foreigners came and ravaged the island and looted the graves of the departed after the great disaster that destroyed their civilization. Others say it is the punishment of God for the idol worship that took place in that ancient time. I only know if not for you, I would not have survived the loss and died of a broken heart. I had your parents’ ashes flown back to our home to lie next to each other in the church burial ground where I will join them and your grandmother to await the Last Day. I find great comfort in the knowledge that we will rest side by side until the resurrection.
Your father came to our small village to help me find our past, and your mother joined him in the venture when she returned to her home. It is my belief that we date back to the Minoan civilization that disappeared several millennia ago from the brimstone of Mount Thera’s ancient eruption and the resulting tsunamis that washed across their island home. The work he completed is in the safety-deposit box at the central bank in Bern. Mr. Franco is entrusted with the key when you are ready. You will find an ancient plea to future generations with it. That is why we must find our past—to bring a soul to rest.
Caralynn, when you are ready, finish your parents’ work. Find our connection to fulfill the legacy entrusted to us.
I love you with all my heart, little one. I will always be with you and entreat our merciful God to guard you for all time.
Caralynn lowered the pages of this last communication from her grandfather and wondered what this legacy he talked about could be. The family had lived on this ground for centuries. Before that the story went they descended from the Romans and remained in Italy after Rome fell and served the first popes when Christianity began to spread throughout Europe. It was this mission that eventually brought them to Switzerland. The family in time settled and stayed just outside the town of Lugano when the property that was now Evensong was deeded to her ancestors by the Swiss royal family for their long-time service to the church.
Caralynn laid awake, thinking into the early morning hours about the airplane accident that took her parents’ lives. She vaguely remembered running toward her grandfather that terrible day, and Aunt Maria sweeping her into her arms as the study door closed on his drawn sad face. As she grew older, she understood her parents were dead but didn’t know why they died. Tears slide down her cheeks when she thought about what her parents must have felt when the airplane began to tear apart. “Papa, I wish you had told me,” she whispered. “I think I know why you didn’t though. I can only imagine your pain when you thought about their last moments and to never have them return home. You gave me so much love throughout the years that I didn’t ask.”
She began to consider the charge her grandfather had given in the pages still loosely held in her hand. “Papa, I wish you were here to tell me what this means. I thought only God could bring a soul to rest.”
“Did you sleep well, my dear?” Maria asked the next morning.
“Somewhat, I had many things on my mind. Auntie, can you tell me about my father and mother? I mean, what they were like.”
“Now what made you think of that all of a sudden?”
“I don’t know. Maybe because Papa is gone, it’s made me wonder more about my parents.”
“Well, let me see. Your father, Alex Davidson, was a tall, rather lean man with very bright green eyes. His sense of humor and a bit of the bad boy in him is what I think attracted Rosa to him. They laughed a lot and were always together from the time they met. You have your mother’s eyes and your father’s chin I believe.”
“But what were they like when I was born—when we were all together?”
“Oh, Caralynn, you were such a joy to them; to all of us. They took you everywhere with them. Your father was a serious archeologist, and Rosa was just as knowledgeable. They both had doctorates in the field. Several universities wanted them to become part of their staff. I believe Alex was considering a number of offers, but they never really said if they had decided anything before leaving for the dig in Crete.”
“Why didn’t they take me to Crete with them? I mean from what you just said, I was always with them.”
“They both felt the dig would be too rigorous to have a young toddler to look after. I know Rosa struggled about staying behind with you, but in the end the man in charge wanted both of them. It was because they were such a good team and stretched each other’s ideas and theories. Alex and Rosa arranged to have you remain with Peter and me while they were gone. It was only to be four months,” Maria said, looking way as a tear rolled down her cheek.
“Thank you for telling me. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“It’s all right,” Maria said, patting Caralynn’s hand. “You need to know about them. I still miss hearing them coming down the stairway in the morning, so full of life. I believe they truly understood how to live in the moment and embrace it. It’s a rare thing today.
Caralynn reread Peter’s letter many times over the next few weeks and pondered what she would do. Should I show it to Auntie?She wondered. Auntie did say he mentioned the trip he was planning to her.
For several nights after reading the letter, her sleep was restless and filled with troubling dreams about an indistinguishable figure trying to reach something and always being pulled back into a dark void calling out to her. The same haunted feeling came each night when she switched off the light and closed her eyes. She began to struggle to stay awake until dawn began to light the sky, but in the end she would doze into a troubled sleep until the dream came and left her shaken and afraid. Lord, why do I not sleep in peace? She prayed. What is this thing, this dream that keeps returning? What is it that I’m supposed to do? Caralynn prayed the same prayer each night in the darkness with her fingers clenching the sheets in a cold sweat that made her shiver.
It was so real, like I was there, she thought a few weeks later. But who’s this woman I saw with something that looked like a small heart shape on her neck? She wondered. It wasn’t a nightmare anymore—it was so real. It must be real—she said my name, I think.
“Papa, I wish you were here to tell me what to do,” she whispered as a tear rolled down her cheek at the memory of the strong man who always knew what was right.
Is that why we study history and archeology in our family—to fulfill this plea Papa’s letter talks about? How can a soul not be at rest? And how can I help with that. Only God can bring a soul to rest
About the Author:
Author Sharon House and her husband Jon are retired and currently spend six months of the year in southwest Michigan wine country while traveling to warmer climates through the winter months. They have a married son and married daughter, gaining a daughter and son, and four very lively grandsons ranging in age from teenagers to adolescent to toddler. In collegeSharon was a voice major with an English minor and loves to sing in her local church choir. She credits writing to her maternal grandfather who owned and edited a small town newspaper in the early part of the 20th century and left a little ink in her veins.
Her latest book is the historical romance, Brimstone and Water.
Visit her website at www.sharonhouse.tateauthor.com
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