Ariadne Unraveled: The Coffee Pot Book Club Blog Tour.
Ariadne, high priestess of Crete, grew up duty-bound to the goddess Artemis. If she takes a husband, she must sacrifice him to her goddess after no more than three years of marriage. For this reason, she refuses to love any man, until a mysterious stranger arrives on her island.
The stranger is Dionysus, the new god of wine who empowers women and breaks the rules of the old gods. He came to Crete seeking vengeance against Artemis. He never expected to fall in love.
Furious that Dionysus would dare meddle with her high priestess, Artemis threatens to kill Ariadne if Dionysus doesn’t abandon her. Heartbroken, the new god leaves Crete, vowing to become better than the Olympians.
From the bloody labyrinth and the shadows of Hades to the halls of Olympus, Dionysus must find a way to defy Artemis and unite with his true love. Forced to betray her people, Ariadne discovers her own power to choose between the goddess she pledged herself to and the god she loves.
The sacred olive grove, which usually gave Ariadne such peace, was dry and brittle with the heat of the long summer. Leaves and a few neglected olives crunched under her feet as she walked with Thalia. Manko and Talos followed behind at a distance.
“I brought honey and oil if you desire it,” Thalia said.
“Thank you, Little Leopard.” Years ago when Zoe had teased Thalia for her freckles, Ariadne had given Thalia the name to show how much she liked the spots.
Ariadne had told no one that the goddess had ceased speaking to her long before Dionysus had come. The goddess did not always speak to her high priestesses, but this felt different. Sometimes a high priestess could reach the goddess by swinging to epiphany.
They stopped before the sacred swing that Daedalus had built for Pasiphae. In early spring, novice priestesses wove flower braids around the two cedar posts. Musicians would play, and priestesses and novices would sing while Ariadne swung.
But now, at the height of summer, the swing appeared dried out, as if the sacred doorway would yield nothing. Still, Ariadne would try. She smoothed her skirt down and sat on the swing.
This is as close as you will come to flying, her mother had said when she and Phaedra first learned how to pump their legs on the swings designed for children. This one was different. The pillars were wider at the top, so the ropes hung at an angle. She had to work much harder, but that often led to epiphany.
She gripped the hot ropes and kicked off. As a child, she had thought Phaedra would travel this path with her, believing the two daughters of Pasiphae would both become priestesses. Ariadne’s crescent-shaped mark had begun to tingle at her first blood, but the goddess had never spoken to Phaedra.
Ariadne pulled back and pushed. The wind rushed through her hair, whooshing in her ears. She let the rhythm carry her to and fro. Sweat beaded her brow. The sun beat down. Let this be another show of my devotion, Goddess. Please tell me what to do. She pumped her legs, leaned back on the ropes. Had she angered the goddess by marrying Dionysus? Had the offerings Thalia, Melia, and Zoe left not appeased her? Or did the goddess no longer care?
She swung higher, pumped, and extended her legs over and over again, until her mind cleared. Now the goddess could enter and convey what she wanted Ariadne to do.
Fully entranced, Ariadne let her mind search for the goddess as her body continued to swing. She traveled to the cave sanctuaries. First, the one in the hills above Knossos, but the darkened cavern where women left offerings and came to give birth was empty. Her mind’s eye flew high, leaping from one peak to another. An old priestess alone in a cavern, staring out from the rocky crag to the sea below. Two girls who had just started their moon blood climbed up to another, eager to be able to enter the sacred space for the first time.
But the goddess was not there.
Ariadne swung, searching in her mind, calling the goddess by her names.
Mistress of Wild Things, Great Goddess, Our Lady, Artemis.
She searched across the island, from temple to temple to the uninhabited wild lands. She spied mountain goats asleep in the shade, and a griffin vulture circled above a canyon. Ariadne felt herself soar with the bird, the wind on her wings, her vision keen.
Great Goddess, where are you?
This sensation of flying with the bird, of going from cave to cave was a new one. Her power had never been this strong before.
She swung higher and higher, ignoring the pain in her hands and legs. Intense heat enveloped her, and she imagined jumping straight up into the sky, directly into the sun. Bright light and searing heat surrounded her.
The Titan Helios stood before her, his bronze skin giving off its own light. His eyes glowed with the sun itself; a crown of flames danced on his pure gold hair.
I have had a vision of you, child. Your fame will be great, but you will be abandoned and remembered as a girl left behind, though you will be far more than that. Your service to Crete is near its end.
Ariadne gasped. What did he mean? She could not speak. The fire of the sun consumed her, blinding her so she lost her connection to her strength. She put her hands up to feel where she was and began to fall, out of the sky, plummeting to the earth below.
She imagined falling into the sea, being extinguished by the water, but no, she fell toward Crete, past the griffin vulture, gliding on the wind, past the sleeping mountain goats and back toward her vacant body in the dried-out grove.
Thalia screamed as Ariadne’s body pitched backwards off the swing. Ariadne opened her eyes to see a flash of blue sky, the crooked olive branches. She had flown, and now she fell. She had reached an epiphany only to be thrown back to earth. Was she to die? Was that the goddess’s message to her?
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Zenobia Neil was named after an ancient warrior queen who fought against the Romans. She writes historical romance about the mythic past and Greek and Roman gods having too much fun. Visit her at ZenobiaNeil.com
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