Ariadne

A preview of chapter 1, Ariadne, by author Georgia Lininger. The full chapter will be available in Curating Alexandria's Collection 1: Welcome to Alexandria due out June 21st. 

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“How scrawny this year’s tributes look,” my father said loudly and snidely in his nasal voice to his followers. We all watched the young Athenians awkwardly descend from their ship to stumble and trip toward us over the pale rocky shore. The sun was terribly bright that day. Even though I hid in the shade, the reflections off the clear aquamarine water and white sand made me squint so narrowly I could barely see them. I hate bright sunlight. (Please, forgive me grandfather Helios.) I longed to go under the cool shade of the nearby forest or even indoors, but Father refused. It was always his command that the entire royal household come to the shore and watch the arrivals of these “tributes” as he called them.

But what were they meant to tribute? His stranglehold on the local empires of Greece? This sick game he insisted on playing so to punish other kingdoms for their weakness? His arrogance? Or his madness?

My mother, brothers, sister and I were to greet these youths, welcome them warmly and escort them back to my father’s palace where a delicious feast would await us all. By King Minos’s command, we must engage the tributes in light conversation, assuage any fears they may have, avoid answering any pertinent questions and above all else- smile.

This last edict was hardest for my mother. She was barely a moon-cast shadow of the woman I remember from when I was little. Her burgundy and midnight silk dress and shawl tried to hide how thin she had become but failed. My siblings and I knew she barely ate, slept even less, and wandered through the halls at night whispering softly and mournfully to the floors. Her children and attendants stood all around her- a living and protective barrier between herself and the king.

Unlike other rich and royal couples, there was no pretense of any affection left between my mother and father. My father forced Queen Pacifea to sit beside him during times of court and at special meals. Other than that, they never spoke to or acknowledged each other. On the rare occasions he would turn to her, his sardonic smile would make her shrink before our eyes, which made him smile even more.

“Welcome! Welcome Athenians!” my father called to the tributes. Escorted by six armed guards, the fourteen Athenians approached us slowly and cautiously. They were all wearing simple white tunics and dresses made tan by travel, sweat and sand. Except one. One young man wore a deep blue tunic and robe edged with silver braids- clothing more expensive than all of the other Athenians’ wardrobes combined, including the guards’. While the others hesitated, he stepped forward."

 

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