MUSINGS OF A STORY MERCHANT

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Tome Tender's Five Star Review of Story Merchant Author Nicolas Bazan's The Dark Madonna

The Dark Madonna: A Fable of Resiliency and Imagination by Nicolas Bazan

The Dark Madonna
by Nicolas Bazan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Dark Madonna: A Fable of Resiliency and Imagination by Nicolas Bazan is absolutely mesmerizing with its intriguing blend of fact and fiction! With few pages, the tale of art forgery, greed, and religious beliefs and mysteries lead a scholar on a journey across continents and cultures, that left me wanting more from this brilliant author.

Nicolas Bazan has written with a passionate pen, telling his story in the first person, deeply emotional and moving, almost like a pilgrimage of self-discovery and inner awakening as I was taken to ghostly remains of the German prison camps, where the determination to survive and the spirit of those who died there could be felt in the air. On visiting Poland, almost drawn by fate, our main character finds his scientific expertise put to good use when a sacred relic appearance to be a clever forgery and a young religious man goes missing. Who is behind this great deception to the faith of the masses? Will the vandal e found? Will the relic be found? Were the reasons behind its theft truly evil or misguided? Can the answer to a religious mystery be found in science?
Wonderfully entertaining and very well written, this short novella feels like a much longer work with its attention to detail and deeply thought out plot.

A review copy was provided by the author in exchange for my honest review and I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

My Addiction Interviews Story Merchant Author S.D. Hines

Interview - S.D. Hines – Author of the Heroines of Classical Greece - Medusa

I am always left in awe when I get the opportunity to literally connect with people on the other side of the world. The fast click ability always leaves me fascinated as I recall my initial exposure to a computer just over 15 years ago. PC’s just started coming into fashion at that stage and going on the internet was still a big -- Wow. Now here I am today, willing and able to chat to pretty much anyone I set my sites on.

            It is a great honour for me to introduce and interview S.D. Hines ( from Alaska) the newly published author of the series  -- Heroines of Classical Greece, a series I am sure many readers will grab with much interest.  
Scot thanks so much for granting M.A this interview.

As a start would you mind giving readers a bit more insight on yourself? What is it that made you decide to write?

Like most of your readers, I’m a committed bibliophile. Growing up, I was the classic nerd who would sneak a flashlight and read under the covers at night. Even now I have a couple or three novels going at any one time. When I was eventually forced to grow up, I settled into a medical career and did a great deal of teaching, often tying in my field (neurologic disease) to the humanities. I commonly used examples of medical illness that were prominent in many famous paintings and novels to make a clinical point. One of my favourite topics was mythology.

I had written off and on through the years, but nothing too serious. One day, while contemplating how unfair many of the old myths were to innocent mortals, I thought “why somebody doesn’t tell the story from their standpoint of view?” Then I realized… that someone could be me.
Your first novel revolves around Medusa. In your intro you gave an intriguing piece on what led you to write the story. Could you share that with our readers?

Medusa was a pious priestess who was cursed for resisting Poseidon when he raped her in Athena’s temple. When I first read this I was mortified. How fair was that? In almost all modern media such as movies and books, Medusa is cast as an evil monster. That paradox got me thinking about how the mortal women prominent in mythology were either monsters, victimized/helpless/inept, or just plain wicked. Think of Medea (killed her kids from jealousy), Pandora (let the evils of the world into the world…similar to Eve), the Amazons (brave but always lost to men: Hercules killed a dozen, one right after the other), and of course, Medusa.
But in our daily lives, the real heroes that shape our lives are often women who persevere despite impediments put in their way by virtue of having an extra “X” chromosome. Even in the 21st century, women have a tough time getting a fair shake. My own wife is a neurologic surgeon and despite her skills and compassion, she must work harder and better than her male counterparts for acceptance. If things are slow to change even now, imagine what it was like 3,000 years ago. What did Medusa have to endure? Ariadne?

What makes your story different from the historical facts that are known to us today?

I would argue that my story is likely to be closer to fact than the current tales that evolved through the centuries. My belief is that there were once real events that shook the ancient world and were passed down verbally to later became our myths. My stories rely more on proven science and history rather than the mystical to explain the origin of these tales. Some myths say that Poseidon destroyed Atlantis. I say that it was a shifting of tectonic plates. Was a giant an twisted creature descended from unholy deities, or was he an acromegalic shaped by an excess of growth hormone? Was the bull of Marathon a monster, or rather an ice age remnant, a prehistoric auroch? I am a firm believer that science is far more magical than shrugging off something unexplained as being the work of the gods.
In my stories, the gods are present, but they are shadowy figures with peripheral roles. The true heroes are the men and women of the stories.  Just like today.

Why focus on Classical Greek heroines?

At the risk of sounding parochial, I would argue that like it or not, and for better or worse, Western culture has permeated our world, particularly the media (print and all others). Ancient Greece shapes our politics, our science, our philosophy, or religion, our ____ (fill in the blank).
So Greek Mythology is a universal theme. It is a clear "winner" in terms of a genre with potential interest to all, if done right. Why pick the heroines instead of the heroes of Ancient Greece? Quite frankly, the heroines were more complex, more intelligent, and more...heroic.
I was fortunate enough to meet Ken Atchity (storymerchant.com and others), author of THE MESSIAH MATRIX, who patiently shepherded me through the bewildering world of publication. I later found out that in addition to his impressive literary credits, Dr. Atchity is a Fulbright Scholar and a recognized expert in classic literature.

Why is it that Medusa’s story – which according to your research was initially sympathetic towards her situation - changed at a later stage to the extent of her being condemned?

Scholars find that the most ancient version of Medusa's tale suggest that after having been horribly savaged and cursed by Poseidon, she was a sympathetic figure. There were even some shrines to Medusa, and I shudder to imagine the circumstances that would drive some to seek these sites of worship. But over time as Greece prospered, Medusa took on a role as a monster who somehow deserved the curse. Some theorize that with a more sophisticated culture and more economic opportunities, women had potential of a role other that of child-bearing and child-rearing. To stave off competition, her role changed to give a moral lesson as to the inferiority of women. As I mentioned, within this same time period almost every mortal female figure in mythology had weak morals, was evil, or failed attempting to imitate the glory of her male counterparts.
Your second novel in the series is now available on Amazon. From having released the first to now launching the second how have readers responded? 

ARIADNE: A Tale of the Minotaur was actually launched first, even though it was the second penned (the order of the series doesn't matter). It was shorter, and was a fast moving, exciting tale that we thought it would be a better one to get out initially. It had a potential appeal to a YA (young adult) audience as well, since it essentially is the ancient version of The Hunger Games. The book is doing very well. It has even more of modern science within, in an easily understandable way. As one reviewer said, it has more twists and turns than the Labyrinth. But when you read it...beware. All your preconceived notions of the story of Ariadne, Theseus, and the Minotaur will be shattered.

How have critics responded towards your take on history?

So far it's been positive, but I don't doubt that I'll get some objections from some that prefer the original stories dating from thousands of years ago. But my history matches up quite accurately, and I try to take as little poetic licence as possible. Let's just say that if my stories aren't accurate portrayals of what actually happened, they should have been ;) Gregory Maguire did something similar when he took the classic tale of Baum’s THE WIZARD OF OZ and fleshed out WICKED from its literary bones. Although I try and include as much proven research in the books as possible, when you come down to it, the genre of "Mythic Fiction" is essentially "Fiction".

How many novels will you aim to cover in this series?

That’s an excellent question. Two down and one in progress (ARACHNE). So long as I have readers that love the stories, I have plenty of material available that will keep me writing. HELEN and CIRCE come to mind as future endeavours, among others. I'm open to suggestions!

Will you ultimately take this series to film or are you happy to just focus on being published?

I’d guess that the number of writers who wouldn’t love the idea of their work ending up on the big screen or stage falls somewhere between one and zero. But I’m just happy to have works out in print, and am not holding my breath. One of the classic Sci-Fi tales, Orson Scott Card’s ENDER’S GAME, is due to come out on film this fall. It was written in 1985. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) was based on a Tim Powers novel written in 1987. Computers and CGI technology make movies possible today that couldn't have been created in the past, but the books that make it to film quickly like “The Hunger Games” and “Twilight” are the exception.

Since first being published up to now, how has having your work out there changed your life?

The books haven’t been out too long, but already I feel more vitalized as a published author. When I first started writing, I wrote mainly for myself and my daughter. I felt there were stories that just needed telling. But with the interest and positive feedback I am getting, I must admit that I feel more motivated to find time to write more. I love the life I have and don't want to change it, but writing opens up a whole new realm of creativity in my life.

From what I understand you work in the medical field where you provide healthcare to Alaskan natives. In this type of industry where and when do you find time to focus on writing?

I not only find writing and my medical practice compatible, but complementary as well. When my patients are reading when I enter the exam room (let’s face it...with a potential wait most bring books) I always ask them about the book and take some time to discuss literature. I often incorporate medicine into my writing. Sure I am busy, but I can always find time to type out a page or two before bed or work while I’m flying off to far northern places like Barrow, Alaska. There is a rich history of physicians who are also authors. The list is long, but includes such notables as Anton Chekhov, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Michael Crichton, and Christiaan Barnard.

Are there any other novels on the horizon?

Sure. ARACHNE is in progress. Like most of my works, I compose them in my mind first while jogging, hiking, etc. and then later write them down. But I need to be more attentive while running in Alaska: last year a friend and I almost ran into an aggressive grizzly bear while out on a road near my home (thank you, whoever was in that blue SUV and opened up his back door so we could dive inside to safety). I also have a YA Fantasy and a Sci-Fi book shelved for now that might eventually see the light of day with some polishing. But for now the Heroines of Classical Greece series takes priority.

Where can fans connect with you and your work?

Facebook page; Amazon Medusa ; Amazon Ariadne
It not only highlights the series of books, but has information regarding that time of Classical Greece. There is art, history, archaeology, and the culture of the Greeks, as well as mythologic tidbits and posts about the science and history relevant to the series. It’s interesting and a lot of fun, but I can’t take credit for the bulk of it (Thanks Chi-Li Wong).


Scot it’s been an enormous pleasure to pick your brain. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions. We look forward to brushing our fingers across your wonderful adventures. 
 

Monday, August 26, 2013

eReaderIQ - Book Deal of the Day! Free Five Day Giveaway Until 8/29!




Book Details

 The Messiah Matrix
by Kenneth John Atchity(Imprimatur Britannia and Story Merchant Books)
4.3 Stars (103 Reviews) Price verified 40 minutes ago

 


Description:

First Jesuit Pope predicted in THE MESSIAH MATRIX!

To what lengths would the Vatican go to suppress the secret origins of its power? Current papal politics has made this thriller eerily prophetic! The Messiah Matrix is a myth-shattering novel whose protagonists delve into the secrets of the past—and expose the fundamentalists who hide them still.

A renowned scholar-monsignor is killed in Rome while a Roman coin is recovered from a wreck off the coast of ancient Judea. It’s up to his young American protégé--a Jesuit priest--and a vivacious, brilliant archaeologist to connect these seemingly disparate events and unravel the tapestry that conceals in plain view the greatest mystery in the ecclesiastical world. Together they pursue their passion for truth—while fighting to control their passion for each other. What they uncover is an ancient Roman imperial stratagem so controversial the Curiafears it could undermine the very foundations of the Roman Catholic faith--much like the secrets emerging from the Vatican in today's news.

From the ancient port of Caesarea to Rome's legendary catacombs and the sacred caves of Cumae, this contemporary novel follows their exhilarating quest to uncover the truth about the historical existence of the real "Christian Savior."

Classical scholar and Yale Ph.D. Dr. Kenneth John Atchity is the only author alive today capable of creating this literary and historically-based spellbinder.

For more information on The Messiah Matrix, including location maps, blog and more please visit: www.messiahmatrix.com

________________________________________________________________

Jasius?Who or what is it? All Google has to offer is a two-tailed butterfly or the ring finger. Say it again. Jasius. It has the sound of something strange, yet strangely familiar. Something or someone we all know, yet infinitely beyond our comprehension. Kenneth Atchity's The Messiah Matrix explores the mystery in a fast-paced, light-hearted novel that is at the same time profoundly disturbing.The story goes forward at three levels. At the top, a rousing twenty-first century adventure that moves from the wrecks littering the floor of the Mediterranean to the corridors of the Vatican. Below that, a carbon-dated epigraphic revisionist history of the first centuries BCE and CE. And, at the deepest level, a sympathetic, fair-minded rational re-examination of "the greatest story ever told." You may applaud, dispute, chortle, weep, but you will think about this book long after the final page.-Benedict and Nancy Freedman, authors Mrs. Mike, Sappho: The Tenth Muse, The Immortals

In a thriller that rivals anything Dan Brown ever wrote, The Messiah Matrix threatens to take all your beliefs and toss them into the wind. A priest is murdered in Rome. His assassin is also shot and killed while with another priest. A message was delivered. An artifact is found on the floor of the sea.A Jesuit questions his faith and the history of his Church.An archaeologist uncovers the find of a lifetime and loses it.

A connection between Christ and Augustus Caesar? The wise men following a star in 17 BC?Curiouser and curiouser! Although you know what they say about curiosity. The Monsignor searching for the ashes of Christ--which he was killed before explaining. Does the Holy See condone murder? Damn Skippy it does!

This book is amazing! The two main characters of Ryan and Emily are the perfect pair of detectives. Will they be more? You’ll have to read the book!Emily’s coin is vital to the history of Christianity in the world, but will they get it back? On the coin, Augustus was wearing a crown with twelve spikes.What’s up with that?

In this tale we have good guys, very bad guys, the Holy Mother Church, good priests and very, very bad priests and one red-headed archaeology professor who, along with one questioning Jesuit and some of his brothers, may be able to solve the conundrum that is The Messiah Matrix.

--Cheryl's Book Nook

Nights And Weekends Reviews AEI Client Dennis Palumbo's Night Terrors






 Margaret Marr


Daniel Rinaldi treats victims of both physical and mental trauma. More times than not, it’s the result of a violent crime. When he’s asked to help on a case involving the prison death of convicted serial killer John Jessup, he’s not so sure that he’s up for the challenge. Someone out there isn’t happy about Jessup’s death, and he’s started killing off all those responsible for his imprisonment. Rinaldi’s job is to keep the intended victims calm.

Wesley Currim takes responsibility for one of Jessup’s kills—a crime that he may or may not have committed. His mother, Maggie Currim, goes to Rinaldi for help, claiming that her son was helping her clean out the attic during the time of the murder. Rinaldi isn’t sure how much help he can be against a signed confession. Besides, he has his hands full helping a retired FBI profiler—who just happened to help on the Jessup case—who’s suffering from night terrors. But night terrors are the least of his troubles with a serial killer on his trail.

 As more and more victims pile up, Rinaldi finds himself under a lot of stress, which could lead to deadly mistakes.

Night Terrors is a unique mystery-thriller involving a psychologist who helps to solve crimes from a psychological perspective. Rinaldi is rough around the edges, but he’s also extremely likable. He goes after the truth, but he always keeps his patients’ best interests in mind—even if he rubs those in positions of authority the wrong way. Rinaldi doesn’t get along with many people, but that’s part of what makes him such an interesting character, and you’ll find yourself liking him in spite of his social shortcomings.

Dark and mysterious, Night Terrors will suck you into its thrilling plot and keep you hanging on until the very last page. Suspense builds to a palpable climax, and you’ll never really know how it’s going to come together in the end. You’ll just know that you have to hang around to see the end result.

With deeply drawn characters and a complex plot, Night Terrors comes alive on the pages, drawing readers into a morbid but gripping psychological tale that offers a chilling look inside a psychopath’s mind. Fast-paced and full of energy, it will keep you up all night. I’m already looking forward to the next book in the Daniel Rinaldi mystery series. 


Reposted From Nights and Weekends Book Review

 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

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Fans of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code will love this controversial thriller. When a beloved priest is assassinated and an ancient artifact is uncovered, can young Jesuit Ryan and brilliant archeologist Emily get to the bottom of a vast conspiracy?

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On the brink of World War II, journalist John Russell writes an article that puts him in the crosshairs of both British and Nazi operatives. With over 130 five-star reviews on Goodreads, this international bestseller “will have readers holding their breath” (Publishers Weekly)

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Lila French's Short Selected for 2013 New Orleans Film Festival

BIRDBATH has been selected to screen at the
2013 New Orleans Film Festival!

:) :) :) :) :)



The festival will take place October 10-17th, 2013 (screening schedule TBA).




I'm so excited to be able to screen my debut film in my awesome home town!!! Not only do I have a ton of family and friends there, but also many of those who supported the film through Kickstarter are there! (Thank you again, Kickstarter supporters, for taking a chance on me and this project. Now I have (some) credibility!)

Also, the gritty/artsy style of the film and the story of a struggling artist trying to make it in the city are perfectly suited to New Orleans. Not to mention the jazz score.. AND the version of the film to be screened is the FULL film with the WORLD'S GREATEST CLOSING CREDITS SONG (an original arrangement of a jazz standard tailored for the film and beautifully played by live musicians)!

I can't wait! If you ever wanted to visit New Orleans... might I suggest October 10-17, 2013... :)

You can join me for the world's most fun thing, which is riding the train through City Park and waving to everyone in the park and having them wave back. (Try it, you'll see.)

See y'all in NOLA in Octobah,
Lila :D


Friday, August 23, 2013

Design Your Novel to Be a Film


Novelists seeking representation complain that none of their books have been made into films. At any given moment, we have literally stacks of novels from New York publishers on our desks in Los Angeles. Going through them to find the ones that might make motion pictures or television movies, we—and other producers, managers, and agents--are constantly running into the same problems:

    “There’s no third act…it just trickles out.”
    “There are way too many characters & it’s not clear till page 200 who the protagonist is.”
    “I can’t relate to anyone in the book.”
    “At the end, the antagonist lays out the entire plot to the protagonist.”
    “There’s not enough action.”
    “There’s nothing new here. This concept has been used to death.”
    “We don’t know who to root for.”
    “The whole thing is overly contrived.”
    “There’s no dialogue, so we don’t know what the character sounds like.”
    “There’s no high concept here. How do we pitch this?”
    “There’s no real pacing.”
    “The protagonist is reactive instead of proactive.”
    “At the end of the day, I have no idea what this story is about.”
    “The main character is 80, and speaks only Latvian.”
    “It’s set in Papago…in the 1960s, and is filled with long passages in Uto-Aztecan.”
    “There are no set pieces.”

Of course anyone with the mind of a researcher can list a film or two that got made despite one of these objections. But for novelists who are frustrated at not getting their books made into films that should be small consolation and is, practically speaking, a useless observation. Yes, you might get lucky and find a famous Bulgarian director, who’s fascinated with the angst of octogenarians, studied pacing with John Sales or Jim Jarmusch, and loves ambiguous endings.

But if you regard your career as a business instead of a quixotic crusade, you should be planning your novel from the outset to make it appealing to filmmakers.

Give us a strong (preferably male) lead who, good or bad, is eminently relatable—and who’s in the “star age range” of 35-50 (where at any given moment 20 male stars reside; a star being a name that can set up the film by his attachment to it).

Make sure a dramatist looking at your book will clearly see three well-defined acts: act one (the setup), act two (rhythmic development, rising and falling action), and act three (climax leading to conclusive ending).

Express your character’s personality in dialogue that distinguishes him, and makes him a role a star would die to play.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Overcoming Perfectionism: A Discussion With Doug Foresta

Dennis Palumbo, psychotherapist and award winning novelist, as he discusses his newest novel "Night Terrors" as well tips for dealing with perfectionism in the creative process. 



Saturday, August 17, 2013

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Memorable Words from Writers and Other Creators

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Turning Books Into Film: Navigating the Industry





This column will explore various issues involved with the process by which books, fiction or nonfiction, published or otherwise, make their way to the big or little screen. Warning to the reader: There are exceptions to everything I'll be talking about here. I'm basing this advice on describing what most often happens in film and television, not on prescribing anything.

Authors who've already made one or two sales to Hollywood, or are otherwise financially solvent, are often frustrated when their books seem to wither on the development vine; all too often they enjoy neither the financial payoff of the option's exercise, nor the emotional payoff of seeing their story on the screen.

When a sale of a book's dramatic rights is made, it's often by a 'correspondent agent' in Los Angeles, one who their literary agent hands the book off to for sale to the broadcasters or studios. The correspondent agent makes a commission—ranging from 10% to 15%--on whatever revenues are received from the option and sale. He makes money when the book sells easily, and his attention span is, necessarily, short.

A typical film deal might be $50,000 for an 18-month option ($5,000 to the correspondent agent), non-applicable against the purchase price, with a second 18 months automatically available to the buyer for the payment of an additional $50,000 applicable against the purchase price—against a purchase price of a floor of $250,000 or 1-2% of the film's "all-in" budget, with a ceiling of $500,000. Once the deal is signed, which normally takes 60-120 days, the writer receives $50,000; the $200,000 or more balance is paid on the exercise of the buyer's option, which normally occurs on the day the cameras roll (known as "commencement of principal photography").

The problem is, by far the majority of options sold to major studios and broadcasters are never exercised because the project never makes it through development hell. Studio execs, after all, aren't as motivated as managers and producers to fight through the obstacles projects encounter and get the film made. When that withering occurs, though the writer may indeed receive his rights back ("reversion"), there's a price tag involved ("turnaround"): any new buyer must repay the original buyer's investment, along with interest compounded from the date of first payment, when the new buyer makes a deal for the book's rights. Because compounded interest mounts so rapidly, turnaround costs often turn a dormant project moribund.

In a deal my company previously set up with a studio, for example, the turnaround costs now amount to nearly a half million dollars; though another studio wants to do the movie, they haven't been able to work out an acceptable buyout with the first studio (who couldn't care less, at this point, whether the movie is made or not, since they failed to make it).

How do writers and their lit agents avoid this unhappy fate? Instead of allowing their book to be sold by a correspondent agent, whose only source of income is in the commissions that come from sales (which I call "taking in a naked story"), writers can work with a manager or an independent producer to attach protective elements--a director, major screenwriter, star, or financing-- before the book is offered to the major distributors. The manager/producer's financial incentive is in receiving producer's fees, and these fees are much larger than the agent's commissions on the literary sale would ever be.

Once a director is attached, a star, or co-financing (in other words, once the project is at least partially "packaged"), the studio or broadcaster (a) has greater incentive to take on the book; and (b) to see it through to production, its further development protected by the talent now attached. The downside: the manager/producer value-added process takes longer, because of the challenge of attaching talent, etc. The upside: the book author is more likely to receive the full sales price and see the movie made, while at the same time retaining greater consultation on the process. (When a sale is made by an agent, the original author is usually out of the loop from that moment on). Generally, this is what authors come to if they still retain affordable rights to their book after they survive its option and development hell; they try to get someone passionate enough to run with it against the muddied waters of its previous history. Better to invest that time at the beginning, and recognize that it's passion and incentive that works best—as they should know from their own process in writing the book in the first place.

It's the author and his lit agent's choice: make an option deal, or focus on making the movie from the start.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

FIVE DAY FREE DOWNLOAD OF S.D. Hines' ARIADNE: A Tale of The Minotaur STARTS TODAY!

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ARIADNE
A Tale of the Minotaur
Heroines of Classical Greece #1
S. D. Hines




Prologue

Malanus, High Priest of Tauros and thus titled the holiest of all men born, breathed a sigh of relief. The island was finally in sight. He could make out the misty silhouette of land arising through the dark seascape lit only by a few of the brighter stars that managed to shine through the gray, dank clouds. He was a man of the city, and had little experience with the sea. He knew that under other circumstances the sailors charged with bringing him to this destination would have chortled at his retching and heaving throughout the voyage. Instead, they turned their faces and absorbed themselves in their work, rubbing talismans and muttering charms against misfortune.

He shook the nausea from his head and belly. He didn’t know if their fear was of him, or the purpose of the journey. On brief refection, he noted with some satisfaction that he didn’t really care. In their entire, pitiful lives, they would never be on a voyage as important as this. And worse yet, they would never appreciate their singular fortune as those who helped forge a new god.

The mariners silently went about the tasks that it took to keep a military galley afloat. The painted eyes on the prow seemed to stare through the fog but the mist-shrouded land seemed even more hidden. Unnoticed, burly Nostrisus materialized beside him, hand on the hilt as always. “High Priest Malanus, the Cursed Isle lies before us. Shall we anchor offshore and approach the village in the morning or land tonight?” Nostrisus, head of the temple guard, had been described as a shaved bear with half the looks and twice the ill-temperament. His impassive face bore a crisscross of scars courtesy of blades turned against him for reasons other than shaving. Their wielders had all crossed the River Styx, the river of death.

Malanus shifted the white linen robes embroidered with figurines of bull heads. Never tiring of the sensual feeling of flowing linen on his bare skin, he willed his eyelids to flutter open. “We shall enter the village immediately after landing. Believe it or not, there have been … tales of resistance among the Cursed when we have landed in the past.” Malanus stood half a head shorter than Nostrisus and was of middle age, portly and pale. Bald but for a rim of hair that traveled behind one ear and meandered to the other, he was a man who appeared nondescript until one looked at his eyes. His cold, black pupils were that of a predator’s. Men whispered he was the most dangerous man in all of Crete.

Nostrisus let his hand grip the sword hilt tighter as a word hissed from his lips. “Resistance? Blasphemy!”

“You speak the truth. But parents will always seek to protect their offspring from the uncertain, even if the purpose is to elevate their children.”

His comment was met with a snort, but the hand gripped the bronze sword all the tighter.

***

The little isle held a single village and a smattering of huts at the periphery. Shunned by traders, its inhabitants lived the rudest of lives. Their houses were built of the local stone and wood, not a pebble of marble. The pottery was plain and adorned with only the native clays as pigments, none of the fine Egyptian inks. The villagers wore wool from the native goats. From the look of the dilapidated hovels, their lives were hard ones: there was little but the bare essentials for survival displayed in the ugly hamlet. Malanus shook his head at the poverty and squalor. Such a place should have been wiped clean of its human cancer long ago, but it was left untouched for a single reason: one of its inhabitants was prophesied to help give birth to a god.

He smiled maliciously, raising the bronze horn to his mouth, puffed out his cheeks, and exhaled.

The ship had landed at the darkest hour just before dawn. The cadre of temple guard had gratefully disembarked from their floating home for the past several days and encircled the sleeping village. No dogs barked warning. Malanus suspected that the place was too poor even to support pets. It was likely that any dogs had been long ago eaten.

As the horn blew, the soldiers put coals to their pitch-dabbed torches. Tendrils of flame flared, swords left scabbard with a spine-tingling rasp, and shouts rose in a chorus of threats, curses, and bellows. Spears and blades crashed against bronze shields, and the villagers spilled out into the flickering light with fear and confusion on their sleep-besotted faces. Malanus noted with amusement that the few men who stumbled from their huts bore little more than sharpened sticks for protection.

The villagers understood a smattering of Minoan Greek, and other than a few resistant young men, were easily herded into the center of the village. As the dawn broke, the fog lifted and eyes were wide at the might of the navy of Crete, two dozen war galleys moored with the appropriate guard, flames reflected off drawn weapons.

A white-haired man was brought before Malanus, eyes appropriately downcast and assuming the position of supplication. Good. There was at least one inhabitant who was not a worthless inbred moron. “What is your name, swine?”

The man didn’t raise his eyes. Good. “Master, my title and name is Viceroy. I was chosen by lot to serve as head of our people and our representative to the King of Crete.” He paused, and with effort and fear, posed a question. “Many years ago, when we last had a ship land, the king of Crete was Minocea. Does he still rule?”

“No. Minocea died long ago. After his death King Minos assumed the throne. As the lawful king and with the need proscribed by the gods, he has come to take the levy from your village as is his right.”

Viceroy cringed. “My lord, we have little or nothing of value on this island …”

“Oh, but you do.” Malanus touched an olive tree, withered like the island’s inhabitants. “The fruit you bear does not grow from a tree or in fields. The riches you harbor are not mined from the ground. What we seek is a child of immense potential, one among you destined to a greatness that can scarcely be imagined.”

Viceroy paled. “You must be mistaken, my lord. We are a small island, and without outside mates, our lineage weakens with time. We are not allowed concourse with others …”

“And for good reason. Your little isle has a reputation for breeding those like the one we now seek. I will inspect your people.”

Flanked by soldiers, Malanus walked slowly up the line of villagers, eyeing each one in turn, but his attention focused on the youths. Centuries of inbreeding had given them a frightening homogeneity: broad of face and form, muscled but perhaps a little intellectually dull. Foreheads unnaturally broad and with frontal bossing, many of the young men were tantalizingly close but not quite …

There was a scream. A woman in rags, wild greasy hair slinging around her, was dragged by a soldier. A child, face hidden in flickering shadow, trailed her, moaning and gurgling. She began pleading. “Mercy, oh great lord. My son is all I have. I only hid him under the bedding for fear you were brigands.”

“His father?” Malanus’ voice was impassive.

“He died last year, great lord. The gods afflicted him with headaches and they finally killed him. Please, mighty lord, let me bring him back to my hut. He is a simple lad and is terrified.”

The priest’s voice was neutral, eyes narrowed. “Bring the boy forward with the others.”

Rough hands reached into the darkness and grabbed the wailing child. His mother screamed and briefly grappled with a soldier. In the dawn’s light a blade flashed and the woman’s struggles were silenced in a wet gurgle. The stunned boy was pushed roughly into the firelight.

There were a half-dozen other young boys around the fire. When the newcomer was thrust into their midst, they sidled away, made signs against evil, and turned their faces.

The darting flames revealed a boy of perhaps four years, but much larger than the others. His head was huge, eyes very wide set and sunken deep into the skull. His temples were enlarged, his chest wide. The nose was broad and flat, nearly devoid of cartilage. The huge, dangling arms were almost the length of a man’s, and held claw-like appendages. Alone, the eyes were normal. They peered with confusion from the events, unable to comprehend the reality of his mother slain before his eyes. He sobbed pitifully. In the eyes of every man, woman, and child assembled there, he was the ugliest human being that the gods had ever being assembled.

Malanus finally raised his eyes, tremulous, and he fought to keep from quavering with excitement. It was beyond his wildest hopes. He spoke on behalf of his entire assemblage. “Child, your name is irrelevant, as you are now a new being. Your old mortal skin will be shed, and you will be brought to Crete and refashioned into something new and wonderful!”

There was a moment of confusion and the boy wiped his eyes. Crete. He had heard of it. But never before had he been allowed outside the confines of his village because of his deformity, ensconced in his hut where he was rarely seen by others. Was Crete another village on the other side of the hill?

Led gently by Malanus, the malformed child stood in front of the fire, his visage revealed to all. The villagers slunk back in revulsion, but to their astonishment, the soldiers dropped to their knees and bowed their heads in supplication, the same honor they gave a king.

Malanus led the prayer. “Hail son of Tauros, god of strength, virility, and war …”

Tears streaming down his face, the boy looked disbelievingly at the worshipful throng, his face finally turning to the unmoving, bloody body of his mother, the sole person who had loved him.

Chapter 1

Ariadne gazed at the bars of her prison, as she had a thousand times before. She wiggled the sand between her bare toes and pushed her lip out in a pout. The bars were not those of metal or even ironwood, but the waves lapping at the shoreline were just as effective at hemming her in. On the horizon she saw a triangular white sail and sighed. Even the fishermen had more freedom than she.

Her musings were rudely interrupted by a handful of wet sand that pounded her in the neck and slipped down the back of her shift. Her wavering shriek was a blend of the reactions to the shock of the blow, that of cold water trickling between her shoulder blades, and righteous anger. “Phaedra! I’ll whip your legs with willows when I catch you!” She stooped to grab a fistful of sand but was stopped cold by a commanding voice.

“You shall do no such thing, young lady. The task of discipline is mine, and mine alone!” The stentorian voice, so startling in a woman, froze her blood and stiffened her spine. Even her giggling little sister froze in the act of scampering away, her wide eyes betraying her panic. A thought shot through Ariadne that if their nanny, Stelith, had been born a man instead of a woman, she’d have been a personage of power. A sailing captain, a general, maybe even a king!

Stelith took a full moment’s measure of Ariadne and shook her head. The girl was in the prime of her youth, with a figure that would make the best Athenian sculptor hopeful of capturing her form and symmetry as a token to a goddess. Oval face with a snub nose and green eyes, she had auburn hair that caught the sun’s light that at times surrounded her head with a golden halo. Though a beauty beyond compare, she was lonely as few girls were on Crete: she was watched day and night by the guard, with little concourse among young men of her own age. As the princess and heir to Crete, her beauty was only valued by her father, King Minos, as currency to be bartered with foreign lords.

Stelith took a linen cloth and wiped Ariadne’s back as best she could, shaking her head and occasionally fixing Phaedra in a withering stare. “Phaedra, such behavior is not appropriate in a princess of the house of Minos. Sooner than you think, you will be of marriageable age. What prince will have a fool for a wife? Now, you will finish scouring the rock bed for scallops and then spend the rest of the afternoon scrubbing pots in the palace kitchen.” Phaedra’s indignant shrieks fell on two sets of deaf ears. After a minute, Stelith shushed her.

“Now, let’s suppose that one of you wanted to harass a rival on such an outing. How would you do it properly?”

Phaedra’s indignant cries stopped and she grinned. These trips often were excuses for instruction in palace intrigue, and she gloried in it, unlike her sister. “I could have faked a stumble and stepped on the back of her sandal, kicking her heel tendon in the process, leaving her bruised and limping for the day.”

“Good. Then how would you disguise your action?”

“I’d apologize and would tend to her wound, weeping the whole time. Then I’d feign a limp the rest of the day and grimace with each step, as if the stumble had hurt me more. But I’d make sure that she and she alone saw me grin.”

“Good. What do you think of this, Ariadne?”

“Stelith, I love you, but I consider this foolish. I will not engage in such petty behavior.”

The nanny gave an icy look. “I love you too, girl, and that is why you must learn to manipulate men, just as men learn to manipulate blades. Your destiny is to be a queen, but a queen does more than bear a king’s children. The day-by-day running of a kingdom is hers to do, and her tools are not mortar and hammer, but the flesh and blood of her subjects.”

Ariadne shrugged and picked up a wicker basket and twisted the lid so the clacking crabs inside wouldn’t escape. She muttered to herself, “nobody asked me if I wished to be a queen at all” but she dared not voice the words audibly. She turned to the north and looked at the white-washed castle walls surrounding the central compound. In the center was the royal house, rising to three stories and easily the second largest structure in all of Crete, if not all of Greece.

Just below and inland to the rise of the castle was a rocky plateau. She could vaguely remember it as a pasture for goats and cattle when she was a little girl. Now, it held a roofed structure of marble and granite that seemed to expand daily, like the tendrils of an octopus. Hundreds of workers, most of them slaves, toiled at loading the blocks one upon the other. The sprawling Labyrinth was said to be the largest structure man had ever constructed, at least since the days of Atlantis.

A deep bellow seemed to echo from the distant walls. For a moment even the gulls were silent. Was it a man or beast? She shuddered and turned her face back to the frothy bars of her prison and waded in the surf, alert for another scuttling crab.

Chapter 2

He could barely see. Little enough light filtered through the vents cleverly hidden above, but for some time he had been aware of his vision narrowing from the sides. Subtle at first, his sight constricted until he was now only left with a pinprick directly ahead. Hearing and smell became augmented senses, and he had mastered their use to the point that he wasn’t handicapped. After all, what was there to see? Only gray, monotonous walls.

He stopped and clutched hands to his temples, bellowing from the pain. When the tears stopped, his knees buckled and he breathed heavily, moaning. Why did the gods hate him so?

***

Daedalus wiped sweat from his brow and made some deft changes to the papyrus. Brought from the far Nile, it was worth more than gold and could be carefully wiped clean of its thin chalk lines for later re-use. The design was like nothing the world had ever seen or ever would see again: parallel lines depicting passageways converged, diverged, branched, split, reformed and occasionally swelled to chambers and rooms both square and rectangular. He stood on a sturdy platform of his own design that soared nearly a hundred cubits into the sky, the platform itself a masterpiece that could never have been replicated elsewhere. The design on the paper was an exact duplicate of the walls being constructed below. This had been the greatest work of his lifetime, over a dozen years in the making.

Unquestionably the greatest mind in Crete, many whispered Daedalus possessed the mightiest intellect of all time, at least since Atlantis fell. But if Daedalus heard such whispered praise, he would blush and politely disagree, citing the works of others in Athens, Thrace, and Memphis in far Egypt. In his prime of life, he was already nearly bald and wore ragged tunics that rarely surpassed the quality of the lowliest slave. But his eyes were bright and searching, and his eyes and broad forehead bore concentric circles of wrinkles formed both by smiling and the frequent furrowing of his brow in contemplation. Though technically ranking high in the nobility, Daedalus’ talents were distributed to the commoners as well and he was beloved by all in Crete.

He looked towards the sea and saw the palace at Knossos perched atop the rock outcropping. It had been remodeled to his specifications so radically that there was almost nothing left of the original structure. Granite clad in white marble, he winced as it reflected the sunlight. The central structure, surrounded by walls thrice the height of a man, was serviced by both a sewage system and warm bathing water available from huge copper cauldrons perched atop the roof warmed by the Mediterranean sun. High ceilings moved air upwards in the summer and cunningly devised fireplaces reflected warmth to the interior in cold weather.

The construction area was a flurry of activity. Donkeys and mules hitched to log rollers dragged massive granite blocks that were hoisted to lifts utilizing counterweights to swing the several-ton pieces into place. Each was fitted so perfectly that mortar was not necessary, the center of each block having identically placed holes that were joined by ironwood pegs: his own design. Then slabs of marble were laid piece by piece atop the completed sections. This was the largest roofed structure in the entire world, with more stone used than the grandest pyramid in Egypt. Workers in loincloths toiled with ropes and animals, and obsessively maneuvered blocks so they were perfectly set. There was more than pride in workmanship involved: each man was a slave, and his freedom would be purchased by the speed and quality of his workmanship. The men worked with gusto and often past their allotted workday.

Daedalus prided his craftsmanship with people as much as his buildings, and was respectful of both. He had negotiated hard with Minos on behalf of his workers. On completion of the structure, all the slaves would become free citizens of Crete.

His musings were interrupted by a voice. It was the foreman, one of few who dared to climb the ladder this high. “Master, we have lost another worker. Can you see him from this height?” The tone of his voice indicated he doubted it was possible.

Daedalus squinted towards the structure. He used a polished crystal to help read the tiny print of scrolls but had nothing to help with objects far away. Perhaps if he ever had time he could invent something if he matched two of his lenses and joined them? “I am sorry, my friend. I can see nothing. Maybe one with keener eyes might spy something? Send a youth up here.”

“Perhaps, master.” The foreman knew better but would still make the effort. More than twenty men had been lost in the building of the Labyrinth. The workmen had become disoriented despite careful orders and caution not to enter a completed section, but all these workers somehow returned. Universally they reported being hopelessly bewildered, one winding turn leading to another, and the way back somehow radically altered when they turned around. More terrifying, they reported being pursued by a beast. Snorting and bellowing, the gods somehow saved them as they stumbled to the entrance before they could be disemboweled and eaten by the monster.

More than three dozen armed men had been sent into the Labyrinth through the years. Usually singularly, they occasionally went in pairs. Nearly all were condemned prisoners and this was their punishment, though a few adventurous young men from other lands had arrived, brashly boasting that they would destroy the monster and win acclaim. Daedalus gritted his teeth at the memory. None returned and their agonizing screams intermixed with the monster’s roars gave testimony to their fate. Later, their broken bodies would be found at the entrance.

The missing worker had been in the covered portion and could be anywhere by now. Rather than follow the instructions of staying put if they were lost, men had a tendency to run frantically and randomly, mired deeper in the maze within minutes. More than once a co-worker became lost as well following the voice of a friend to his doom.

An adolescent scampered up the ladder excited and awed to be in the presence of the great Daedalus. “My lord, how may I be of service to you?”

“I require the eyes of youth, lad. Please, scan the Labyrinth and look for movement. A worker was lost, most recently seen in the northwest construction.”

After several minutes of intent searching, the boy turned to Daedalus, eyes welling with tears at his failure. “I am sorry my lord. I cannot see him from this angle. He may be under the roofed portion.” He looked at the papyrus. “If you would lend me the map, I will enter and search for him at your command.”

Daedalus eyes widened. “No! I will not lose two. The map will be of no use to you there.”

“But why not? My father is a mariner, and he taught me to read maps.”

“This maze is like none ever constructed. Door frames are larger or smaller in concert to give the illusion of distance. Some areas burrow under the ground with sections above their heads. Dead ends will be revealed to have a hidden side passage. Not even I can navigate this maze, even though I have overseen its construction. It almost seems that the Labyrinth has taken a life of its own and grows.”

The boy’s eyes widened. “The monster?”

“Perhaps. I have never seen what was brought inside, but I give it my full respect. You should as well.”

At that very moment, the walls of the Labyrinth seemed to quiver with a mighty roar that echoed through the passages, varying distances causing a waxing and waning of the bellow that amplified its volume. Now both inventor and boy winced. The screams of the lost worker were drowned by the animal howl. Daedalus bowed his head and prayed that the poor man would find his way to the entrance before it was too late.

***

King Minos glowered at the chief priest of Tauros, but only behind his back. Malanus held power just under the king himself, and he would prefer an ally to an enemy. But he would only put up with the priest to a certain point.

“Malanus.” he began, noting with satisfaction that the priest spun and declined his head when addressed. “I have given some thought to your proposal and have discussed it with my councilors.”

“And?” Malanus was careful to keep his head slightly bowed and respect in his voice, yet his heart seethed with contempt. True, Minos had cemented Crete as the primary power in all the Mediterranean both militarily and economically, but despite two wives he had managed to produce only two still-living heirs, and both only girls. Although a priest was unable to marry, he had sired seven sons and three daughters. Clearly Tauros, god of strength and virility, favored him over the king.

“I agree that the treaty signed with the Athenians is not only valid, but just. We have the right to demand seven pairs of their finest, young men and women, to serve as we see fit.”

“That is indisputable, my king. After all, they killed your own son.”

A pang of pain went through the chest of Minos. For a moment, he thought of the warnings of the healers, who cautioned that such portents suggested failure of the heart and impending death. He put it aside. If the gods willed it, death would be welcomed. “And in the ensuing conflict, we killed many of their sons as well. It was a skirmish, not planned. Crete and Athens had no embassy at the time. Now we are trading partners.”

“But not allies.”

“No, not allies. And that is the point of my councilors. We overcame the Athenian forces and forced them to the treaty out of anger and vengeance. They council it is best to take a step back and let us welcome them as friends instead of a conquered people.” He paused. “Though my heart is still pierced by the loss of Androgeos all these years, when my councilors speak, it is hard to discredit their words.”

The voice that replied was cold. “Your seed is permeated with divinity, my king. The murder of your son was an affront to the gods themselves. You have not sired a male heir since. This is clearly a judgment from Tauros. You must act, not on your own behalf, but for that of Crete.”

The priest could sense Minos inflate with pride when reminded of his bloodlines. He continued his baiting. “To show pity at this time would lead the Athenians to believe we have weakened, and they may rebuild their navy to challenge us.”

Minos turned to the window and surveyed the bay. Dozens of warships lay anchored, most were returning from mock battles. “That upstart city? Merchants and olive growers? They wouldn’t even serve for practice against our fleet.”

Malanus nodded and straightened his robes so the embroidered bulls at the sleeves would be more visible. “True, my king, but men would die unnecessarily on both sides. To continue taking your lawful Tribute will actually help the Athenians as well as please the great god Tauros. We must preserve the natural order of things, and the tributes are no small part of this. We are the lords, the Athenians our vassals. Fourteen of their youth is but a pittance.”

Minos nodded, brow furrowed. “It is as you say. And we provide them with safe passage, spending our own blood and treasure in the form of our navy to stave off pirate attacks, do we not?”

“It is as you say, sire.” The smile was hidden underneath the bowed head. “This token is but a sliver of what is ours by right. And these youths are honored in return by their service to the great god Tauros. Some of our own people are jealous that foreigners are so honored before themselves. And remember this: some of your councilors have trading contracts with the Athenians. I hardly think their council is impartial.”

Minos nodded, and smiled. “Thank you my friend. What you have said is true. Sometimes it takes another man to open the eyes when one has had them clouded by devious words.”

High Priest Malanus bowed all the deeper and let the smile stay within. Besides the gold that accompanied the youths, he had control of the fates of the fourteen most comely of Athens. He was not lying when he told Minos that they were dutifully serving the great god Tauros: Three of the most attractive girls were part of his harem, and the rest were doled out to Nostrisus and his confederates in the temple guard. The boys had found uses as well.

There was a brief pang of regret that this new Tribute arriving would not serve to satisfy his earthly desires. They actually would be used directly in the service of the great god Tauros. He smiled: they would be used in a way they couldn’t remotely imagine.

Chapter 3

Pain. It flooded his skull, beginning in a spot at the exact center, then spreading, focusing behind his eyes. It was throbbing and pulsatile, but also intermixed with stabs like red hot nails being driven into his head. He knew the analogy was a good one, because he had literally experienced metal digging into his skull. The spells now came daily, and would make him cease all activity. At times he would bring his clenched fists to his face and scream.

Where was he? Who was he? Why had the gods hated him so much to curse him so?

***

Aegeus read the dispatch and his head slumped. “I had hoped that the time of Tribute was to end. But Minos demands the same as before: seven each of our best young women and men.”

Theseus bristled. “This is madness, Father! Years ago Minos’ son Androgeos won the Athenian games and all the more honor to him. But he had the misfortune to be involved in a fight in the tavern district and succumb to a knife wound. Why should the entire city be punished? We had no part of this and the area was thoroughly cleansed of identifiable miscreants, now and since. We pay for a night watch to clean out any ruffians. Athens is the safest city in Greece.”

Aegeus nodded and closed his eyes. “Nonetheless, Minos has chosen to make us pay a heavy price. When we resisted three of our warships were destroyed with the loss of over a hundred men. The Tribute, as degrading as it is, is preferable to warring against the might of Crete.”

“We will fight!”

“With what, Theseus? The navy of Crete vastly outnumbers ours. They have allies through their trade in all of Greece and can call them to their banner. They are the premiere power on land and sea as far as Egypt and Thrace, and probably beyond. As strong as your sword arm might be, it is nothing to that of the might of Minos.”

Theseus didn’t reply, instead he looked seaward, to the hill holding the slowly evolving pile of marble blocks and pillars that would someday be the temple of Athena. “It is time for Athens to exert itself as a power, Father. We cannot continue to languish under the heel of Crete. We have suffered enough for his son’s death, far out of proportion to what is justified by law and common sense. To demand more from us is an outrage that cannot be tolerated.”

“We have no choice. I’d take any option other than submission, but there is none, son.”

“And what did Minos decree the endpoint of our servitude to be?” It was a challenge as much as question.

There was a pause. “His embassy demanded the same Tribute as before: seven of our young men, seven of our young women. There was no endpoint specified. But we suspect there may be another option.”

“And that is …?”

“If you recall, it is traditional in Crete for the condemned to have a last chance for redemption if they complete a formidable task. The past few years, those condemned to death were given the option of entering the Labyrinth.”

Theseus nodded and looked towards the south, towards Crete. His eyes narrowed and he clenched his hands into white-knuckled fists.

***

Daedalus watched his son play with wooden blocks, stacking them up high. He smiled. The lad already had the drive and intensity of his father and a spirit of adventure that required constant vigilance. If only his mother had survived the childbirth. He shook off the ache in his heart and concentrated on the wondrous child she had left behind. “Icarus, have you bathed yet today?”

The child smiled and shook his head, tottering to his nanny without a word. Daedalus smiled and returned to his work, speaking to the girl who swept the boy into her arms.

“It is the smiles and enthusiasm of youth that gives me purpose. If not for my wife’s gift to me of Icarus, I don’t know if I’d have a connection to the living world anymore.”

She tousled the child’s hair. “Then Icarus is praiseworthy indeed. The people on the street speak your name with reverence, my lord. Your works have touched the most humble. Even my mother finds that her laundry is easier with the fountains that are always full by the magic your devised!”

Daedalus shrugged modestly and smiled. “Not magic. It was only the study of the forces of nature and a logical application of what we see daily. The wind we feel daily is constant and strong. Harnessing its power was as simple as observing a child with a pinwheel.”

The girl cast her eyes downward. “Nonetheless, my lord, it must be the gods themselves who have opened your eyes, and your eyes alone, to what others have missed. And who else would use this gift for the good of all rather than personal profit?”

Eyes downcast as well, Daedalus murmured softly, “Sharing one’s fortunes with others should not be for profit, but a blessing, and first and foremost to the giver.”

The girl smiled and she darted to Icarus, who was busy constructing another pile of blocks ready to fall.

Daedalus simply closed his eyes and remembered a time more than thirty years before. As the memories returned, his chest tightened and he wheezed for air.

***

War was smoke, smoke and fire. It was the screaming of women and children, the shouts of men. It was the face of the dead, lying on the earth with puzzled, unseeing eyes, no longer embarrassed by the loss of their stool and urine. Worse yet were the eyes of the animals, horses and dogs, slain with no inkling of their sacrifice, whether it be for good or bad.

Daedalus was too young to remember the name of the city. Not Athens, but certainly allied to it. Nor could he remember his father other than a dim image frozen in his memory, that of an impossibly tall man, at least to a child’s eyes, who clutched a farming implement used for tilling. His face was brave but fearful at the same time. No warrior, he was going into battle for his family and knew he would never return. He clutched his son to his breast and looked at him with eyes that betrayed knowledge of his fate, but they also held a glimmer of hope. “Persevere.” he whispered to his son. Then he turned and left the little hut into the nightmare of fire, smoke, blood, screams, and flashing bronze.

He never saw his father again.

Blood and soot-streaked men shouting commands in an unfamiliar Grecian accent herded the ragged and terrified children and women into the village center, their communal well broken and piled with the bodies of the slain. Raising his eyes above, he saw the familiar moon, Selene, now red-streaked as if defiled by Ares, the god of war. He held his little fists to his eyes as he tried to shut out the images. Some of them were those of women raped, begging their children and siblings not to oppose the warriors on their behalf. The other sounds were that of the men not already killed being ritualistically slaughtered, his mother joining their ranks when she broke shrieking from the line of defiled women and ran towards her son.

Because he was perhaps four and small for his age he was spared and herded with the others to be sold at the slave market. He no longer remembered the name of his little village, nor his birth name. His name from that day forth was Slave.

Daedalus never forgot the last words of his father. He persevered. He did what was required and more. Even as a child, his quick wit and intelligence set him apart from the others. His new name, Daedalus, derived from a nickname meaning clever worker. He went from slave to foreman to apprentice architect to master architect faster than any could remember. Minos put him in charge of the palace restoration and finally the construction of the Labyrinth, the largest building project since the fall of legendary Atlantis.

It was traders from Crete that had recognized his potential and brought him to their island where he had blossomed and shed off the label of slave. He had adopted the island as his own and loved the people dearly, turning his talents for invention to the benefit of the average citizen.

Technically he had never been freed and was officially a slave. But his gifts were unique in Crete if not the world, and it was unlikely that there was a person alive who realized this omission. He was grateful to the good people of the island nation, but never forgot his origins and was cautious in dealing with those of power.

From ragged orphan slave to a lord of Crete, the mightiest empire of the Mediterranean, his transformation was breathtaking and unparalleled. In the known world, every man of power had risen to his station on the basis of heredity, wealth, religion, or skill in arms. Daedalus alone rose to power on the basis of his intellect. He bowed to Minos, King of Crete, and Minos alone. He vowed to use what talents the gods had bestowed on him for the good of all people and never to further wars of conquest.

Shaking the dusty memories from his head and willing his heart to slow, he stood and walked to the little slit window, hands crossed behind his back. The apartments on the backside of the palace complex were not the most desirable: the ones on the front caught the sea breezes and had a panoramic view of the Mediterranean. The view he craved like breath itself stood arrayed before him. He sighed and viewed what was arrayed before him.

The Labyrinth.



Copyright © 2013 by S.D. Hines All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the express written permission of the author.

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