COPPERY SUNSET SLANTED OVER the boxy whitewashed houses perched above the steep shoreline. Indigo sea pawed at the base of the cliffs as stark mountains and secret green gorges slid past like the wake off Nereid’s bow.
Ariadne traced the coves on the spread chart, where she’d jotted readings from her magnetometer as they’d worked their way west along Crete’s rugged southern shoreline. Now she was trying to match contours to her memories. The boat rose and dipped beneath her feet, and she gripped the console edge, resisting the persistent dizziness. She felt weakened again, after using the Tinos crystal’s pathways to cleanse their bioelectric fields and combat the radiation effects. Taking a steadying breath, she closed her eyes as the sea rocked her gently. . . .
Clear purple-blue swells, rocking Uncle Demetrios’s battered old trader. Little Ariadne stood stiffly gripping the rail as they headed for the Petrides’ sheltered cove, refusing the prick of curiosity, the wild lure of the rugged south coast of Crete. She knew it was all a plan of her uncle’s, to make her forget her mother’s death. But she’d never forget. Never.
“My little Kri-Kri!” His rough hand tousled her braids. “Meet Mistress Kriti. She’s a wild, glorious witch—the Big Island. You’ll see, she’ll enchant you, too.”
She turned to him, unsmiling and armored, looking up at those dancing dark eyes always teasing. She frowned, sticking out her chin. “You’re just making up stories again.”
He grinned and spread his arms to the sea and rocky mountains and endless sky. “Making up! When the stories here are bursting all over, blossoming like flowers out of the stones and spring rains? What about Homer and the fabulous ninety-nine cities of the Minoans? Those crazy girls and boys dancing with the sacred bulls. Even old Zeus was born up in those mountains!” He jabbed a hand.
“And your great-great-great-grandmother Ariadne. She was the priestess of the labyrinth her father built. There’s a lesson in that. Watch out for those scoundrel gods. Old Minos, now, he thought he could dodge them, outshine them. Hubris. Crafty Zeus, that philanderer, showed him up, came down as a giant bull in all his glory—charmed Minos’s wife right out of her skirts. When a god comes bearing gifts, now what’s a poor mortal to do but bow down and take it? And what a visitation that was, all the power of his magic rod!”
He shot Ariadne a look and sobered, stroking his long black mustache. “But those gifts of the gods—always a price, eh? She bore Minos a godgiven monster child. The minotaur, half man and half bull. So old Minos locked him at the heart of the labyrinth to guard the treasure. Only daughter Ariadne brave enough to hold the key to it. But then she had the power, the ancient serpent magic from the original matriarch Gaea herself. . . .”
Despite her stubborn stiffness, Ariadne broke into a grin. “Uncle Dmitri!”
Remembering, she blinked away tears and smiled. That pirate Demetrios and his outrageous tales. Was he still here, living up in those mountains? She’d been allowed no word of him, since he’d defied her father’s orders to join the new Med League.
“Are we there yet?” Leeza’s voice broke in on her.
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