Even after centuries passed and conquerors, caesars, and caliphs overran the island, the locals continued to swear that, on certain nights, one could glimpse Phagyana, the Ghostly Sphere, over the central mountain of the isle or out to sea.

The real danger, the islanders insisted, was not the Ghostly Sphere itself but rather its inhabitants. The Children of Phagyana were said to become fascinated by anyone who glimpsed their spectral home for more than an instant, and would descend upon them. Mischief and misfortune would follow, with the Children rumored to be behind everything from plague to pregnancy.

Worse, if the proper cleansing rituals were not adhered to, the Children of Phagyana would eventually bear down upon the unfortunate and bear them hence to the Ghostly Sphere. Those so taken, it was said, became Children themselves.

“This is Vasily Albanov, a Russian as you might expect and the best forger in the city,” said Sedena. “He once crafted me a visa that let me cut through North Korea and Iran on the same trip.”

“To be fair, the Iranian border guard’s eyesight wasn’t so good,” laughed Albanov.

“And this is Constantine Retewo, our scrounger,” continued Sedena. “He’s a Lesbian and a veteran of just about every Middle Eastern conflict you can imagine. Scrounged for Hezbollah and the IDF in the same conflict.”

“I’m sorry…what did you just say?” Peter said delicately. “He’s a …lesbian?”

“Yes,” Retewo growled. “I was born on the isle of Lesbos. Do you have a problem with that?”

“I…well, it’s just that…it seemed…”

“Oh, I know,” said Retewo. “I know just what you thought. Those goddamn girly-girlies have stolen the good name of my island, and I have to hear the same damn jokes every time I am introduced! It is a good Orthodox island and a good Orthodox name!”

Peter drew back, startled.

“I love it when he does that,” Sedena said to Peter with a low-key smile. “Why do you think I don’t introduce him as a Greek?”