SHE STRODE DOWN THE rocky path, her donkey trotting along in the cool morning as they rounded the headland and broke into a spill of sunlight. Below, a cove glimmered clear vibrant blue—mirror for the cloudless sky and white cliffs cutting pure lines against it. The air shimmered, humming electric with the fresh day.
Ariadne Demodakis stopped, filling her lungs with the air’s astringent tang, tingling with the brand-new, ages-old promise of dawn. Life surged in her, pulsing with the world’s heartbeat.
A shadowy twinge. She knew even as she savored this rare morning that it was only a brief reprieve from all those urgent voices clamoring for attention: the RP-Hansen’s victims, the healing experiments her scientists were running back at the lab, the communications conglomerates’ announcement that they were raising the already-dangerous transmission power on the remaining microwave towers, the latest plan to capture more shipping lanes by her father the Tyrannos—her jailkeeper. And this beloved island, her birthplace become her prison.
She took a deep breath and pushed those strident voices back inside a sphere of silence, summoning the cool serenity of a marble statue to smooth her face. Within that quiet, she had learned to find her freedom.
Today, this fragile glory of the dawn, wasn’t meant for shadows and clamor. The world even stricken was such a power of beauty it sounded her depths like a bell and she could only ring with it, send her voice pealing out to the earth and sea and sky in reverent praise.
Lifting her face to the sky, she turned slowly with outstretched arms, stepping to an ancient dance of thanks-giving.
A nudge at her back startled her. “Iris!” She turned to her donkey who carried the waterskins strapped to a pack saddle. “All right, no more dawdling.” She smiled and gathered the lead rope.
The path took them around another headland, dropping toward the village spread along a pebble beach. An old stone windmill spun its sails in the breeze, pumping water from an underground spring. The climbing sun was already heating the rock wall of Fofoula’s garden on the edge of the settlement, stirring scents of herbs and dust.
“Despoina Demodaki! You’re out early today.” Fofoula, drying her hands on her apron, hurried from her doorway with a glass bottle. “Did you bring more of the holy water?”
Ariadne filled the bottle with her activated mineral springwater. “Don’t forget, all you need is a small drink each evening, for the pain.”
“Despoina Demodaki! Despoina Demodaki!” Two little girls and a boy came pelting down the dirt road.
“The holy water. Mother says can you come?” The boy caught a breath, panting. The girls, suddenly shy, looked at the ground, gripping their skirts.
“Tell them I’m on my way.”
The children raced back toward the village square as badly-amplified bouzouki music broke out over the housetops.
“That Nikos!” Fofoula’s husband Yiorgos joined them, shaking his head. “He can’t wait to start the party.”
Fofoula touched Ariadne’s arm. “Come to the celebration. It’s Nikos’s name day.”
Ariadne hesitated. How long since she’d been to any kind of celebration? “Endaksi.” All right. “I’ll go.”
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