In memory of Louise Halley Forshaw,
who laid the groundwork.
Rose International Publishing House U.S.A
Copyright 2006 by Kristina O'Donnelly. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used as fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information or storage retrieval system, without the express consent of the copyright holder.
A new scream ripped through the air, more agonized yet, and I jumped, tears stinging my eyes as I envisioned the blood pouring out of my mother while she writhed on the birthing chair. How many times had I felt so terrified, waiting at the births of my younger brothers? Trembling like a leaf on the wind, I was standing at a window in my father's palace, watching tall masts spearing the blue sky above the farthest olive groves. Those masts, playground for noisy seagulls, tilted gently as water lapped against the stone quay of our port-town.
Strangled by helplessness, I had had to flee from the screaming-my mother's.
Another scream exploded, like the howl of an animal, sending me racing for the doorway. I paused there as my father's field-boots thudded up the stairs and along to the birth-room.
Moving softly, I looked out and observed with terror that he was about to break taboo by entering that room. I crept down the stairs, sped to a dark corner of the Hall near the entrance, and crouched down.
A harshly efficient female voice struck my ears, “Stop worrying, Lord! There is olive on the front door, isn't there? No evil spirits are about; the pitch is safely on the lintel, isn't it? You hurry and make those sacrifices, Lord! I'm busy.” Having had her say, Nurse Mykale whipped the door to his face, its noise striking me like a sling-stone.
Rising on tiptoes, heart thumping in my throat, I took a few steps, craning my neck to get a better look. In the center of the Hall, Father was pacing around the firepit. Now he paused, a gigantic, kind-faced, red-hair and bearded man with sea-blue eyes, King Êetiôn, ruling from holy Thébé, south of Troia and Mount Ida, resting a scarred hand on the family altar beside the firepit.
When he let out a ragged sigh and blinked rapidly, I suspected tears. I burned to offer comfort, but did not dare; he would not want me to see him so vulnerable.
After a frozen moment, he regained momentum, strode past me without seeing me and out through the door, hurrying to the shrine atop Plakos Hill, as bidden. A warm smell of loam lingered in his wake; he had been out with his men at the plow. Now he must beseech the Goddess to protect his beloved wife. Once again, terror grasped my shoulders, shaking me violently. Nurse Mykale had often grumbled that this pregnancy was not as normal as all the previous six had been. Was the Goddess indeed angry? I knew well about divine anger because of my own horoscope. It had been foretold at my birth that I must beware of a blessing that would bring a tragedy upon me.
Footsteps from an inside passageway announced Althaia, a thin, dark-haired, servant girl. She was carrying my brother Thoon on the crook of one arm, a large purple bruise on his little white rear. He was only just out of swaddlings and getting into trouble as he crawled around or tried to stand up on his own.
Althaia stood him beside me. “Everything male must get out of here or your mother's pains will get worse!” she screamed, “Take him away and chase out all the dogs and ganders-and your brothers, too, if you see them. They're to be no closer than the outer courtyard.”
Hurrying to the hearth, Althaia bent and retrieved a ceremonial pot of silver. She then scrambled back to where she had come from, without another glance.
I ambled to my feet with clenched fists, determined to protect my mother. Her agonized screams were filling the palace again. Oh, Holy Ilythia, Goddess of Childbirth! Help her! Mother was going to be killed by the dangerous process of giving life!
Thoon howled his protest as I grabbed his pudgy little hand, dragging him as fast as I could, into the courtyard. Anger mingled with fear as I struggled with my tiny brother through the doorway-anger that I was not allowed to see and comfort, Mother. With only thirteen summers to my credit, I was not yet old enough to trap the child's spirit in my womb. Really, Mykale was a tyrant, always asserting her rights as the Queen's nurse from her childhood days in Miletos.
Dragging Thoon into the bright sunlight of the inner court, I scowled up at the smiling Helios, Sungod, riding the noon sky in his chariot; hah, he need not be so cheerful.
I then came upon my oldest brother, eighteen-year old, redheaded, freckled Andros, absorbed in training a clumsily playful puppy to heel, with little success.
“The taboo, Andros!” I cried, “The males of everything have to leave immediately! Go, go now!”
One terrible scream silenced me and paralyzed my brother.
I streaked back to the door, leaving little Thoon to wrestle with the play-barking puppy.
At last, an ominous silence was followed by the tentative cry of a newborn.
I dropped to my knees. “Oh, thank you, Goddess!” Glory be, my mother had performed another miracle with Her help.
Streaks of reddish light tingled through my arms and fingers, and I smiled triumphantly on Mother's behalf: Nothing could be more wonderful than being female, and giving new life.
Rose and saffron edged the entranceway as I wakened. I lay a moment, motionless, smiling to myself-a smile of determination. No one must know of my plan about finding Helenos, son of Priam.
Eager to start the day, I sat up, pushing back tangles of strawberry-blond hair from my face. My fellow initiate Lanassa's slicing tongue had already told me that Helenos had been detained at Sipylos because of his bloodguilt. It was customary for boys and girls to be brought here for puberty initiations, and now I, with other daughters of princes and kings, was here, for instruction in the duties of oncoming womanhood.
I left my bed and went to the opening, looking out into the horizon. My body tingled and sang as excitement rushed through my veins. I drew back my shoulders, straightening my spine with pride. Indeed I was about to defy one of the strongest of all taboos! Fearless only daughter of King Êetiôn, I would let nothing interfere with my plan.
One sun-bronzed hand grasping the coarse black fabric of the tent I shared with three other girls, I stared across the lake. My attention centered on that enormous rock on the mountain, rising in dark outline against the air: a woman's face shaped by wind, rain and the hand of Ma Kybele, the Goddess, our Great Idaian Mother, or Great Kind Mother. My mother Latmia was a priestess of hers.
Stone against space, the divine profile reached out for me.
I lifted my arms in homage, breathing deeply of the evergreen-scented air. My heart struck another wild chord, echoing in my throat, causing me to swallow hard with apprehension. The bloodguilt attributed to Helenos was not just, and he should know that even though everyone thought so, I knew he was innocent. However, because he was an outcast, if anyone should witness me talking to him I would suffer the same fate. Ahh…but surely Great Kind Mother would understand my need to right a wrong.
My memory tripped and I recalled the day when I had first felt the power of Her infuse my veins, glowing in red streaks down my arms and emanating from my fingertips. It had been two months ago, on the day of my newest brother's birth.
Presently a fresh sense of urgency brought me down to earth, propelling me to fly out from the tent to join the other girls assembling along the lakeside.
I waited with my group of girls while a priestess chanted invocations, her sharp glance roving around the forbidden area: Good, she seemed to declare, no sign of any male except those eunuch priests guarding ships by the seashore.
The invocation ended and we separated from each other.
Standing alone, panic gripped me as I stared into the lake's depths, where shadows of the lost city were sometimes seen. I shivered. Would spirits pull me into those drowned palaces and suck the breath out of me until I was as lifeless as ancient stone?
Swallowing nervously I unfastened the clasps at my shoulders and dropped my gown, the cool breeze raising goosebumps all over my naked body. There was no point in delaying the inevitable, it had to be done. I reminded myself that this was my thirteenth summer on earth, and the ritual dive would restore me to the purity in which I had been born of my mother.
As I slid down a high, craggy rock jutting into the lake, waves clutched at my toes like fingers of the unburied dead.
Trembling, I dove into darkness, watery sheets closing icily about me. Down and down and down I swirled, sinking to the craggy bottom, raising clouds of sand around me.
Once more memory intruded the present, reconnecting me with my mother's painful ordeal, a clear reminder of our common destiny-the deadly perils of giving new life.
Shaking my head fiercely, I forced myself to remain in the moment. Lungs almost bursting, I thrust upward, surfacing in a foamy rush, floating back to the shore.
When my feet touched the sandy bank, I sighed with relief, bent and lifted the fresh robe a priestess had spread for me on a tamarisk. My hands made gray mud-prints as I pulled it over my shoulders.
Then I felt the eyes. Turning, I saw the face.
A boy's face, one near manhood.
Tallish and wide-shouldered, he stood framed by tamarisk fronds. His long-lashed blue eyes held mine. He had sandy hair, his black robe and the black goat's pelt fell from neck to ankles. Hmm, another one under the taboo of bloodguilt.
He stepped forward, declaring hoarsely, “Ãndrõmakhê Êetiônis, you have forgotten me.”
Recognition exploded from my tightening throat, “And you are Helenos Priamides!”
Shocked at my failure to recognize him, I bit my lips, drawing blood. This was not how I had planned our first meeting after three years. I drew back, no longer defiant of the taboo.
Helenos seized my shoulders, pulling me against himself. “I've dreamt about you this morning,” he whispered, “you were mine to do with as I wished.”
One of my immature breasts was crushed against the ridge of his chest. Numbed, I became rigid. “Let go at once, Helenos!”
Nevertheless, his free hand began working to release the brooch at my other shoulder. The catch held. His breath was warm on my cheek, his lips burned my neck. Then his mouth was crushing mine and his hand fumbled at my breasts. I felt a mysterious excitement, confusing me. He was three years older than I was, and under a taboo. Surely, he was aware of the restrictions; surely, he would not attempt an act that would bring death upon us both!
Then, anger won, “Outcast!”
He held me even closer, whispering, “I knew you were coming here for the initiation, Ãndrõmakhê. I expected you, searched for you. But I was not ready for your beauty.”
Sensing that he was about to dare couple with me, I reached up, slapping his face. He broke away and plunged out of sight through the profusion of tamarisk and galingale-all rough-edged leaves, reddish spikelets, and aromatic roots. I watched the feathery branches and long spikes sway behind him. My knees went weak and I almost dropped to the soft earth. I had not only talked to him, but also been touched by him, and the latter might just be the death of me. Yet why did I not feel any real fear, or regret?
Furious at myself, I stripped off my robe and leapt back into the lake. Now my heated skin welcomed the cool water and its power to wash away his touch. I swam further up, then dove to the very tops of the sunken towers below, freezing mid-motion as I observed a nude female presence float up next to me. Unnerved, I swam away from her. My gaze searched the shimmering liquid depths housing massive, moss-encrusted stones. The skin and muscles of my arms and legs stretched and tingled. There was something strange about this other swimmer! Her long dark hair trailed her substantial body, she was pendulous-breasted, with wide hips and globe-like buttocks that had a pearly sheen. She did not look like anyone in my group of initiates, nor any of the priestesses. Must be one of the locals, disrespecting the taboo of entering the lake during the ceremonies. Or, was she a guardian Nymph, watching over the secrets of the ancient, sunken city?
A bolt of hot light struck me, searing me all over, but even though my mouth fell open, I did not swallow water.
Awe captured me. This swimmer was no ordinary Nymph! Could she be the Goddess in the flesh?
Like a moth drawn to flame, I swam toward her. Then I found myself turning cartwheels in the water as the air left my lungs in bubbles blurring my vision. Indeed something eerie was afoot!
I steeled myself against the panic demanding I leave the water. Did the Goddess come to punish me for talking with Helenos? Did She ordain my death by drowning?
If so, then so be it.
I would accept Her judgment with grace, for I was no coward. I had faced up to the chimera of fear for as far back as I could remember; dark undercurrents had always swirled about my father's hearthside, stirred by the chanting of minstrels. Yet I had loved the twanging of their chatty lyres with tales of heroic deeds. Alas, of late, many of them sung of deathly skirmishes in places where peace had held for many years. Less often they repeated the old epics of Mysian Thébé, the holy city of King Êetiôn, and still less of Mother's home at Miletos ….
So, I let myself float. The mysterious woman lifted her arm, tossing something in my direction. I reached instinctively, and it landed in the palm of my hand, as naturally as a sinking feather. It was a milky-hued pebble, round, shiny, the size of a large pigeon's egg.
When at last I regained control and came up for air, still clutching the pebble, I was no longer a child. The Triple Goddess Kybele Ma Sipylene was with me as Maiden, not yet Woman. Mystically reborn, my childhood had sunk gently downward like a lost veil in the lake….
Dawn was turning from gray to pearl when I joined the other white-robed worshipers at the lake. An elderly eunuch priest, torch flaming, led the procession along the shore, followed by three priestesses in a slow dance timed to their sistra. I kept step with the bevy of swaying girls along the Sacred Way. Lions carved from living rock stood guard at intervals as we ascended the mountain. The pebble, round, smooth and warm, remained folded in the palm of my hand.
Gold touched the colossal shaft of Ma Sipylene-Mother of All Gods and Men-just when our group formed before it.
I shivered as light moved up the incredible face, softly shadowed by its triple crown. The column, covered with globelike breasts, glowed as the eastern sky shimmered from gold to rose to silver. It became touched with pink and yellow, heralding the oncoming dawn: Helios, Divine Son, and the Sungod. The stone became flesh before my very eyes. For a brief moment, I was sure I heard the Voice.
Beginning as a low moan, the Voice rose to a howl; then, silence.
Helios leapt as a ball of fire, claiming superiority by reducing Ma Sipylene back to stone.
Tossing back our gossamer veils, we moved to sit on flat rocks around the altar-table. Eunuch priests with blank expressions served stew of goat cooked with asphodel roots from a great black kettle steaming over a brazier beside the shaft. Asphodel, a food preferred by the dead and thus planted near tombs, was a plant that grew to three feet in height, sported large white flowers and radically long, numerous flowers. It gelatinized the stew and gave it a strong, acrid flavor, sticking to my throat, causing thirst. However, there was plenty of unwatered wine to wash it down, wine strong enough to send a careless drinker into a deep sleep.
My hold on the present was fragile to begin with, and provoked by the lingering vision of the mysterious woman in the lake as well as the copious wine, scents, asphodel, and smoke whirling in the air, my mind leaped backwards again, to the day of my youngest brother's birth.
My mother's screams echoed in my mind, rising and falling in tandem with my own heartbeat.
The priestesses finished their invocation and the brief silence tossed me back to the Here and Now.
Blinking rapidly, I felt my cheeks burn, fearing they would know I had been here only in body, but not in spirit.
I joined in as the group continued to partake of the food served in gray pottery dishes. Priestesses chanted hymns in honor of the Goddess as Girl, Woman, and Crone.
Afterward, two novices collected and tossed fragments from the meal back into the pot.
Slowly shaking their sistra, the old women beside the cauldron hummed an incantation. All of a sudden, a figure began emerging from the pot. I gasped, my skin turned cold and roughened with bumps. It was happening right in front of my eyes: The Divine Son, eaten as Goat, was being restored to human form!
The golden arc of his head appeared; then neck, shoulders, torso, dark and solid against the sky.
The naked male figure posed a timeless moment on the rim of the kettle. The tempo of the sistra increased dizzyingly when he sprang onto the altar-table and paced with slow grace, eyes closed, around its outer edge. As he passed by me, chills ran down my back and I swallowed with horror: This was NOT Sungod! This was ordinary human flesh framed by the light.
Numb with shock, I was looking at Helenos.
I left the group and drifted off alone. The thought raged in me: It was impossible to continue with my false initiation! I had never felt so cruelly used, so deceived. Yet…was this not a place of deception in order to teach? On that same spot, ancient King Tantalos had eaten his son Pelops in such a ritual.
Something nudged me to open my palm, and I stared at the pebble. Its shine was stronger now, pulsating, flashing with fire, emanating a heat that almost scorched my flesh. Squinting my eyes, I brought it closer; this was no ordinary pebble, but an opal. I turned it around and around in my fingers, its iridescent colors flashing or changing according the angle of light. Prickles ran through me, from scalp down to neck and back. It was believed that opal, opallios, which meant to see a change of color, bestowed its owner with the powers of foresight and prophesies.
I was last to approach the initiation caves. A breeze sang through the pines as I turned onto one of the paths leading around the caves. I followed it until I came to sit on a flat rock. Here I was concealed by young myrtle and oak. Still clutching the opal in one hand, I bent over, massaging my bare feet with the other, feet bruised from sharp stones along the Sacred Way. I then pulled off my veil and peony wreath. Settling my robe around me, I breathed deeply of the aromatic air, trying to calm down as I fingered the gemstone. Opals were also linked to invisibility and astral projection, and used to recall past lives, each color representing a different past life.
My mother's image reappeared in my mind. Even as love warmed my heart, I trembled violently, unable to stop memory from imposing itself upon my surroundings.
The door to my mother's room opened with a click and Mykale appeared. I scuttled back to my private corner as the nurse came down the stairs with the baby in her arms. Naked, the newborn glistened with oil. Mykale's white robe was covered by a trailing black veil, appeasing powers of sky and earth.
Three nude priestesses followed, carrying wet laurel branches.
The child's lusty screams proved that no evil spirit possessed him. Placing the child on the bare floor to draw strength from it, the priestesses whirled in a dance of incantation, sealing him from evil.
Father entered. Striding to the child he lifted him and swung him thrice toward the hearth-fire, and away, then placed him in Nurse Mykale's arms. Now the child belonged to Humankind, anyone killing him after this would suffer bloodguilt.
My thoughts returned to Helenos and his bloodguilt; I had been nearby, and witnessed when he had accidentally killed Chaon.
Only one night before Chaon's death, my father Êetiôn, and Chaon's father, Priam, had agreed on a marriage between Chaon, one of Priam's younger sons and me. In celebration of the pact, a great hunt was held and Helenos joined his older brothers. He was put in charge of Chaon. Nine-year old Chaon, with a bow and arrow of his own, snuck away and hid in a thicket, hoping to bring down a hare to impress me with his skill. Helenos and his brothers, in hot pursuit of a boar, mistook Chaon's rustlings for that of the prey. It was Helenos whose arrow pierced Chaon's heart. Afterwards, Helenos sat stiffly with his older brother Hektôr in the wagon as it bumped back into the city bearing Chaon's body. I saw the flood of tears he was holding back, broke free from my mother's hold, and scrambled into the wagon. “Helenos,” I spoke warmly, and his sweaty, trembling hand clutched mine like a lifeline.
Something had stirred deep within me then, and stirred again as I remembered it all now. I had planned to find him today, defying the taboo of his bloodguilt, and tell him…what?
The plan that had seemed so easy before was now so impossible. I had wanted to tell him that I knew he was innocent, as much a victim of the Inevitable as young Chaon had been.
The sound of sandals padding on stone startled me. Turning, I saw, through frilly myrtle blossoms, an old priest and a young man stop nearby. The priest spoke a few words, then, twitching his red-and-green striped robe, strode on down the mountain. The young man stood, fists at sides, head high, defiant.
My eyes remained fixed on him.
Sungod made mortal-yes, yes, he was Helenos Priamides…and I had come here to be deceived in order to be taught a vital lesson.
Pulling aside branches I leaned forward, calling out his name. He rushed and stood in front of me, a muscle in his square jaw working.
I pointed to the gray robe he wore. "It's not black."
“I have partial absolution from the Goat Dance this morning." His blue eyes glowed golden in the green shade. "Forgive me for how I behaved earlier."
I said coldly, “You pretended to be the goat we ate.”
“That is a mystery of the Goat Goddess." His voice deepened, man from boy. "She cleansed me of taboo, for now.”
“You are free now to go home?"
“Priest Merops told me-just now-that I am to train at Apollo's shrine in Perkote, to become a healer-priest. Merops will foster me."
Hmm, so he was going to be trained at Perkote. The priests of another Apollonian shrine had taught Helenos and his twin sister Kassandra. Apollo had blessed them with the gift of foretelling the future. "Tell me; is Kassandra at the Thymbra shrine as well?"
“Yes. She is seeress there now."
“Seeress…to be able to see beyond the veil thrown upon our eyes by the Fates….”
“A burden not to be envied!”
I nodded. "For how long will you stay at Perkote? That's not far from Troia, is it?"
“Yes, not far. I shall study at Perkote until Father sends me on to the shrine at Sparta.”
“Sparta? Why? Will you be taking gifts to a princess?"
“No! No bride-gifts to Lakedaimon-Greater Sparta, from Troia." He swung around to leave, and then faced me again. "But when you are ready for bride-gifts, Ãndrõmakhê, I will bring such riches for you that your father cannot refuse."
He moved off, striding down toward the dark, unlit lake below.
Helenos would come for me.
The promise hummed like lyre-strings in my heart.
Helenos, noble son of Great Priam, Helenos, who would one day become Chief Hierophant at Thymbra, would come for me! Here was the sign I needed to complete my initiation. The revelations I would receive today were important-to both of us.
Back inside my tent, I placed the opal in a pouch, anchored it around my wrist by tightening its string, then collected an ivory stylus, a stack of soft clay tablets and a bowl of tepid water to wet the tablets, ready to record the visions I felt sure would come. The tablets had convex-shaped backs, easily fitting into the palm of my hand. Rare among my peers, Wise Kiron, our resident scribe, in a script comprised of wedges and hooks that represented sounds or abstract thoughts, as well as pictograms, the drawings of actual things, had schooled me. Born in Krete to noble parents, Kiron was a survivor of great calamities, first captured by Phoenicians at age ten, years later sold to a Hittite merchant, and then sold to my father. He knew well the Kretan and Hittite manner of writing, and taught me to the limits of my ability to learn.
Now I took a bunch of dry twigs and lit a fire in the stone-ringed center-pit, then tossed in laurel leaves to flavor the smoke and speed me along my journey.
Sitting on a cruciform couch, I drank deeply from a white alabaster cup waiting beside it on a low table. The too-sweet wine was laced with drug made of the soma poppy. At first, however, I felt restless, thoughts racing around in my head. Helenos had called me beautiful. Was I? Really? Driven to rise and rummage in my travel-chest, I took out a polished copper mirror, studying myself critically. I then retrieved a dainty gold wreath with drops of amber hanging from it on slim gold chains. Placing it on my head, I stared at my shining reflection. My strawberry-blonde hair, though smoothed back behind my ears, looked unkempt against the artistry of the wreath. The amber drops blended into the long strands of my hair. I examined my eyes, nothing like my mother's pink-tinged albino ones, but an azure-blue shadowed by red lashes. I tried to smile, hoping that there was indeed promise of a beautiful woman. I had naturally arched thin brows, and they peaked now with a worried frown; my straight, narrow nose was too long to be beautiful; my mouth, like Mother's, was rather large, red, and wide.
Feeling dizzy and nauseous, I flung away the mirror, lay down on the cruciform couch with arms stretched out on each side, and waited for the visions that would give me a share in the Mysteries that Helenos already knew.
On the brink of trance, fear reined me in.
Kiron's white-bearded oblong face appeared in my mind: What are you doing, Ãndrõmakhê? Have I not taught you the value of patience and caution? Are you strong enough, mature enough, to…?
Yet the first notion that came to me, with urgency, was that our world was changing-fast. As waves of foreign traders and warriors crossed our land, our beliefs, ways of life, even our language, would fade away.
Then another thought struck me: The Great Mother was under siege! A pantheon of new gods with their rules and demands were pushing their way into her breast, tearing her apart from inside out!
Panther-toothed terror clasped its jaws around my throat.
I fought to shake it off, struggled to sit up, desperate to pull myself out of wherever I was going.
However, it was too late to stop the journey.
More visions rushed in, one after the other. I saw water in blues and greens as the opiate guided my mind. The Great Mother appeared as Eurynome the Creatoress, wide-wandering Moon, born of Khaos. She danced on the primeval ocean of rainbow colors. Into the circle of her dance glided the purple fertility serpent, Ophion, encircling the whirling Goddess. Eurynome became a white Dove floating, her delicate pink eyes shafting light into darkness. She laid a blue Egg; it floated and halved, releasing the Son as Hyperion. He illuminated the dark waters.
Another spin and I was on a ledge upon a sun-splashed mountain, among granite rocks oddly shaped by the wind, overlooking a dark-blue sea breaking along the sandy coastline. Beached on the shore was a slender ship, light hulled, at its mast a carved white swan, the Eye of Her painted on both sides of its prow so it could see where it was going, and on the ground by its side sat a stone anchor. Above me, canopied the blue sky, below me, green fields speckled with flowers of summer, yellow, white, red, and purple.
I breathed in deeply, loving the warm scent of pine-pungent, invigorating. I stood within a female body, mine, yet not mine; I was a girl-child, barefoot, clad in a shift of soft yellow kidskin. Around me, towered magnificent trees, chestnut, wild yew, myrtle, oak, juniper, all of them taller, greener, with brown trunks thicker than I had ever seen in my life…in my life as Ãndrõmakhê.
My heart leapt: I was on an island kingdom called Shardana!
Now my thoughts were a clear stream, I knew that just a swift run down the slope, I had a home built of stone, shaped like a truncated cone upon a circular base. Dwarf palm trees and shrubs of oleander, heather, rosemary and dyer's green weed, surrounded and protected it from prying eyes. There I lived with Nurziu, my older brother, so named because he was fortunate, and Gatto, a spotted-yellow lynx cat.
I wanted to start walking to return home, but could not; my feet were rooted to the ground. I pushed my body forward, but was stopped by an invisible wall.
Everything changed again, and I was in a terraced city engorged in flames, black smoke destroying the skies and creating dark streaks of reflection on a fast-running river of foaming blood. Countless warriors, stripped of their armor, bleeding profusely and howling with pain, were crawling around on the ground, among mud, blood, gore, hacked off limbs and trailing entrails.
Screaming with terror, I hurled myself forward, landed on the outside of the defense walls, observing a long procession of keening-women pouring out from the city to hold the wake.
The women swayed under their white veils as they beat their breasts, wailing. Conch shells sounded, and minstrels joined in playing throbbing lyres and wailing flutes as priestesses added heartbeat sistra  and sobbing bagpipes.
At once, my drugged vision faded away. Gasping for breath, I woke, alone in the dark. I sat up, terrified, trembling, chilled, my eyesight blurred, still nauseous, yet excited and gratified.
Shardana as well as the burning city and keening women were eclipsed in my memory as images of the Great Kind Goddess returned, her strength flowing through my skin and bones.
Forgetting to record my visions, I leapt to my feet and hurried to dress and mask for the Dance of the Dove. It took me a while for I kept bumping into things, and twice lost balance and collapsed on the ground in a heap.
However, when I collected myself and joined my group on the lakeshore, the short, sharp, rhythmic pulses of the sistra aroused me to movement and activity. The Dance of the Dove commenced, followed by the Mystic Spiral. Barefooted, we threw off our masks and tunics, baring our nubile selves to the elements, whirled and leapt, faster and higher, scattering around the seeds of time, healing and fertilizing the earth.
Time sped away like fleeting clouds. The dancing ended at moonset, and only then did the Chief Priestess accept us as women.
We were now Creatoresses like Mother Eurynome, meant to nurture the seeds of men, and bring upon new life.
This completes the first Chapter to Kristina O'Donnelly's ANDROMAKHE, Vol. I. To read the entire eNovel for only $3.99, click the Buy Now button.
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