Chapter One Present Day
Shoveling dirt in a dark, forbidding hole wasthe last place Ariadne Papadakis wanted to be. She used the trowel in her handas a weapon to scrape the clay away. A drop of sweat trickled down the ancientblack tattooed snake on her arm, past her elbow, over the serpent’s weavingbody, and stopped at the base of her wrist as if it was afraid to enter herpalm where the head of the snake was poised for attack.
The city of Gournai sat at the base of a Cretanhill, a blister of light in the callous night. Ariadne could remember when thetown had been nothing but a few villas and a market, perfectly rural—a greatlocation for a secret. Now it bustled with modern life and somewhere within thepublic maze, sat an archeologist who wanted to expose the Labyrinth she and hersisterhood of nymphs had kept hidden for so long.
How had Beau Morris found their secret…a secretthat had been hidden for thousands of years? She couldn’t know for sure, butnow she had been ordered to deal with the consequences of his action.
Earlier that day, while Ariadne had been workingat the museum in Heraklion, a braying couple from Alabama had been amongst thehandful of visitors. They had laughed at the bare breasts of the statue ofEpione, the snake goddess. They had snickered and made jokes of the serpentsthat graced her arms and her ample breasts. They never paused to consider whatthe woman had once meant to so many and still meant to Ariadne’s sisters andall nymphs. They had just laughed and gawked at the oddity before them. StupidAmericans.
Did no one revere what is sacred anymore? Hadculture changed that much?
Ariadne pushed the thoughts from her mind. Therewere some things about the modern world that she just didn’t understand, andDr. Morris’ ardent desire to destroy the nymph culture by exposing the secretsof the Labyrinth was at the top of her list.
Couldn’t he just leave some things alone?
If he found the Labyrinth, the artifacts wouldsit in the museum, and like the statue of Epione, be pointed at and mocked—orthey would be misused. The sacred Labyrinth needed to stay exactly as it was,hidden from science, from prying eyes, mocking laughs, and greedy hands.
She jabbed the trowel into the hard earth.
The trowel-marked square walls around her seemedto move in a little closer as Ariadne worked. She swallowed back her fear asshe looked up at the night sky. When she was done, she could get out of thisplace and never come back.
Her gaze fell to the exposed light gray columnat her right. For a moment she stared at the moonlit carved stone, it remindedher of the thousands of years that had passed since she had been born. Eachyear brought a new challenge, a new set of problems. She ran her finger againstthe arid dirt and brought her fingers to her nose to smell the burnt sage, thecitric aroma of oranges, and a hint of olive.
To have an archaeologist sticking his nose whereit didn’t belong was an invasion tantamount to war. Subterfuge was the game andnymphs had thousands of years of practice.
DanicaWinters is a best-selling author who is known for writing award-winning booksthat grip readers with their ability to drive emotion through suspense andoften a touch of magic. When she’s not working, she can be found in the wildsof Montana testing her patience while she tries to understand the allure ofvarious crafts (quilting, pottery and painting are not her thing). She alwaysbelieves the cup is neither half-full nor half-empty, but it better be filledwith wine.