Heads bobbed toward him, arms flailed at the waters, as children were swept through the same channel. Rushing back into the water, before an incoming wave could sweep him off his feet, Daedalus helped Eurydice and Orpheus to land.
The twins were sinking exhausted, so he had to swim out, drag them in and return for a second set of twins. Pollux and Castor, two strong swimmers, needed little help. The last child visible to him was little Athena, holding with one arm to a shattered plank as currents seemed to be sweeping her away from the beach and out to sea.
Half choked with swallowed water, his body battered by the waves and rocks, Daedalus took only a few steps into the water toward her and collapsed. He was not even conscious as he lay in the water of a swift form darting past and swimming rapidly out into the dangerous strait between the arched rocks and the shore. Atlas and Herakles dragged Daedalus in turn out and spread him on the sand, where he lay retching and spitting salt water.
Some time passed, and when Daedalus had finally got his breath and was again aware of his surroundings, he cried Athena's name and looked wildly about. Castor, Pollux, Jason, Atlas, Herakles, Orion, Pandora, Helen, Cassandra, Artemis, Chronos, Orpheus, Eurydice, Hector, and Medea--all children were accounted for except Theseus and Ariadne.
The children, gathered at the edge of the surf, screamed and pointed wildly. Daedalus could see something too--heads bobbing, disappearing beneath waves, and bobbing again. Daedalus took a plank that had floated to shore, and with it entered the water and soon reached the two struggling children.
Daedalus was not needed after all, for a sudden surge of a large wave speeding through an arched rock lifted and swept them all straight onto the beach. Crawling and being helped, the three collapsed on the shore.
When he was able, Daedalus checked everyone again, and made certain no one was lost. The Pride of the Minos was a mass of flotsam floating under the arches of the rocks, but all their lives were saved. They could still see the Mycenaean ships, standing off from the coast, which turned and sailed easterly.
Most of the children were weeping, but the bigger boys were manfully holding back tears. It had been a terrible fright to all; strangely, the children recovered from the shock in very short time and were thanking God, though Daedalus continued dazed, more in mind than body.
"Why did you have to sail into Polyphemus's stones?" cried Theseus to Daedalus when the boy had got his breath.
Tears streamed down Theseus's face. "It was not right for you to do that, when the Lord God intended to deliver us from our attackers! If you had only waited He would have done something!"
"I do not have to answer to a--a harlot's bastard!" Daedalus responded under his breath, turning away.
Theseus persisted, and tugged at Daedalus's shoulder. "You yourself saw how the Lord God was helping us with the winds! Why did you then drive us on the rocks? Tell us why!"
Daedalus refused to answer, and the disconsolate boy turned aside to his friends, and to see how Athena was doing.
Some of the children got up to return to Fair Havens. Theseus, after rescuing Ariadne, was all for going and said so before Daedalus stirred himself to decide what to do. He could see the ship was lost, and few things were worth gathering up. Nevertheless, with a few of the children he picked up some baskets, even though they were empty, filled them with odds and ends, and decided to leave the stray boards of planking for later.
Theseus had already started off up the cliff, and Daedalus was last to leave the beach, struggling with two baskets of precious bits of sail and nails and a few wood-carving tools. His beautiful tool set from the palace had been lost; he thought perhaps he might return and dive in the area to see if he could find anything.
Though much bruised and cut, everyone felt better in a fresh, warm breeze above the cliff edge, and some of the children even began to talk about the event as an adventure, offending Daedalus who looked upon it as a great calamity. The boat building had taken everything he had; he did not think he could do it again. He was afraid they were returning home to starve, while the children were looking forward to the old, familiar hut and the surrounding olive grove.
Days after the shipwreck, Daedalus could think of nothing else--though the children soon were preoccupied with food-gathering and running about the area as usual. Their activity and laughter made him feel all the worse, as he considered the realities of the situation now that they had lost the Pride of the Minos and had no means of raising enough food to feed so many young people and their big appetites.
Without his tools, the situation indeed seemed dire. The drought made farming impractical. How would they eat? Each day dawned without a thing to eat, yet morsel by morsel they somehow collected enough to keep the worst hunger pangs at bay so that they could sleep.
Daedalus, feeling dismayed that the Most High had not prevented the calamity or at least warned them, began to wander off by himself and spend much time in worry. He had returned to the wreck with the biggest boys, intending to salvage the planking for a new boat; but once there they found only a few pieces worth saving; and even those Theseus seemed reluctant to carry all the way back to Fair Havens.
It took some days to locate a hammer (borrowed from a reluctant farmer). He already had a few nails and the salvaged lumber. He thought to start on the frame of a smaller boat. Theseus came over only to watch, though he had helped considerably with the lost Pride of the Minos.
"Why do you want to build another?" Theseus asked innocently. "If you had believed God would save us, you would not have need to build now!"
Daedalus, annoyed at the boy's disinterest in the project and his inference about lack of piety, would not answer at first.
Finally, the ignored boy turned away, and Daedalus shot back, "You evil beast! Foreign spawn! Liar! Why not help me instead of losing your sleep over a little girl with no breasts? Gathering sponges with her, of all things! Pah! That's what you've got for a head! A sponge soaked with goat urine!" They were the worst things Daedalus could think to say. Theseus spun around, a mere youth, yet suddenly enlarged with anger to almost a man. But he had no weapon, not even a stick of wood, and Daedalus was holding the hammer.
Yet manly, courageous, plain-speaking Theseus was a leader, and he mirrored the attitudes of the other children. Sensing Daedalus's frustration and anxiety, and following Theseus's lead, they kept away from the boat project and avoided him.
Daedalus worked alone and told himself he did not care if the children helped or not. He was determined he would not spend the rest of his life living like a brute animal from day to day, searching for scraps of food. The children were used to a barbaric life; he had known the best and highest of civilization. And until he left Keftiu for good, he was still its prince! He soon ran out of planking and urgently needed more. Without saws, he would have to ransack the palace ruins for tools and materials he might have overlooked. On a visit to Knossos, he found the fire had been most thorough, finishing what the earth-shaking and the Mycenaeans had begun. If he could build a ship with stone, the palace was a good enough quarry; but he saw it was useless to look for anything else. There was nothing but heaps of rubble.
Walking down toward the main harbor, careful to keep off the road in case of Mycenaeans, Daedalus explored the land further on, and was close to the water when he came upon a solitary woman of no particular age. Richly dressed, with the exposed bodice of high palace style, the lady (for she seemed one at first glance) paused to look him over, and he decided to go closer.
As they came close, it was as he had thought. He remembered the woman, a wife of a well-to-do dealer in Tyrian purple at the palace. Though only a commoner, she had affected the elaborate dress and open-breasted style of noble women at court even then, and somehow her wardrobe had survived the destruction of the palace and the island.
"Prince Daedalus!" the woman exclaimed. "By the goddess, it cannot be!"
She was genuinely shocked and put a thickly-beringed hand against her white-powdered cheek.
Daedalus bit his lip and glanced at his own rough attire. His loin cloth was rough-sewn sailcloth, and his girdle had long since become a frayed rope around his middle. He glanced at her gilded sandals, reminding him of the ones his mother wore. Starting to move away, Daedalus yet hung back.
"I mean, you are so changed, my lord!" the woman explained.
She approached closer, a mincing step at a time as if afraid to take a look. Her eyes widened. Then two tiny tears glistened like crystals at the corners of her thickly paint-lined eyes. "O Prince, it must have been hard for you!"
"What do you mean?" Daedalus almost snarled.
Her pity, recalling Theseus's look, had stung deeply. The woman rubbed the corner of her eye to keep a tear from streaking her cheek and looked at him, swallowing the rest of her grief.
"I only meant, it was hard for you to lose your mother and father and everything we used to enjoy at the palace."
Daedalus stared at the gaily-dressed woman, and then he knew what had happened to her. The Mycenaeans had taken the best-looking women from the palace and the homes of tradesmen in the first attack; they had been forced to serve the crews on board ship; she had been one installed at the port. Apparently, she was made of less coarse stuff than the others and had become a favorite, able to demand rich gifts in return for her affections.
"What became of your husband?"
The woman looked off toward the shore and a line of huts (all that was left of a ruined port-city after the Great Shaking and a fire) and shrugged. "We are all widows now, having to live together for protection and whatever solace our mutual losses can give one another. It is not an easy life, lacking the plumbing, the marble baths, the entertainments, maid service and other conveniences of the palace, O Prince."
Despite her claim, Daedalus knew she had never been allowed to set foot in the palace. Heartily disgusted, Daedalus again moved off, and was walking away when the woman called.
"Please visit again when you like. I will be here waiting, my Prince!"
Hurrying off, Daedalus tried to put the woman out of his mind; but he was still mulling the incident when he stepped into his old hut.
Theseus was inside with Ariadne. They rose hurriedly from his bed, and Ariadne, with a tiny, childlike hand to her face, slipped out.
Daedalus was not for talking to anyone just then, so he went to his bed and lay down. He could tell Theseus had been lying on it, for it was badly mussed and berry-stained. Daedalus decided to speak to the boy later about it. Later, he was sleeping, when movement in the room disturbed him. The moonlight streamed through the window, so it was easy to see anyone slipping out. The boys often did that, but they always returned soon. So he was surprised to find Theseus still gone when he arose.
Seeing Ariadne coming toward them, the boy paused, giving Daedalus another chance. This time he took it, and sent Theseus sprawling on his face in the sand.
Rising, the boy crouched and stared at Daedalus for a moment with his icy blue and grey; then wiping his face he got up and went to Ariadne, who stood, mouth open, watching them with her child hands folded into little fists.
Daedalus turned back to his work, wondering if the boy had learned anything. He ignored the pair still standing a little ways off, watching him.
Presently, hand in hand they walked away.
Having plenty of time to think while he worked, without any children to distract him, his mind kept going back to the encounter with the woman. He tried to recall her name. Was it Sylla? Then he laughed. Because her name sounded the same, he had mistakenly given her the name of one of the famous pair of Clashing Rocks that smashed so many unwary ships and seafarers. Then he had it: Cilla was her name. Her husband's foreign name escaped him entirely. There were so many hundreds like him at the palace, tradesmen from Tartessos, Tyre, Illios, Pylos, and other favored trade-cities in his father's grip who had nothing to do with court life. He had seen Cilla's husband only once or twice and only remembered his wife because his mother had mentioned her once, as a living example of how insufferable a tradesman's woman becomes when wealth increases her status too quickly and the tradesman--to appeace potential noble customers--turns uxurious.
With her favorite poet's satiric verses in mind, his mother was apt to notice such things among the lower classes, and was much amused by Cilla's fashionable attire and Assyrian palanquin as she continually paraded about the streets.
He thought of Cilla, and how remarkably Cilla had fared in the disasters that had overtaken everyone else. Cilla looked better for it, in fact. Despite her complaint of a hard life, Cilla had done well for herself, serving the whims of Mycenaean admirals. Once beautiful as many were beautiful in the old days, she now was ravishingly lovely and delicate amidst the barbaric circumstances of her present condition. Had her husband really been killed by the Mycenaeans? Mourning garments, drab and black as Keftiuan sails, did not suit Cilla.
It shamed him to think how Cilla had stared at his derelict and ragged appearance, though Cilla still addressed him properly with respect. He decided to take more care about his hair. He thought he had let himself go too much of late, thinking it did not matter because he only knew the society of uncivilized orphan children. Somehow he would have his hair styled and oiled, and get some finer garments if he had to steal.
Yet meeting with Cilla had shown there was still a civilized world, though only a few civilized people survived on the island. At least he and Cilla remembered how it had been. Cilla, for example, could still talk about it as something to be remembered and valued. It was not long before he ran out of everything: nails, planks, saws. His loaned hammer had shattered; he needed tools to replace it and other things as well. There was nothing for it but to go and search the island for what he needed.
Telling the children he needed to go, Daedalus started off one day, but instead of taking his chosen route toward the west end of the island he turned north and came to Knossos. Without stopping he hurried down to the harbor.
"It must have been hard for you," she said again, but with more a gleam than a tear in her enchanting eye.
Daedalus returned after a few days. He had a hammer and nails and some other tools, all carried in a fine, leather bag that hung from his shoulder by a strap. The children pushed in to look at his things, and Theseus was examining the various tools before he could stop him. They asked where he had found them.
Daedalus did not answer at first, but as they pressed he finally came out with it. "In the palace, in a place where I had not searched before."
Plain-speaking Theseus looked at him with mock surprise. "You did not stop there! You were in too much hurry to notice me following you."
Daedalus looked at the Mycenaean brat with horror. Theseus's expression turned knowing, ending in a smirk. He formed his lips in a courtesan's practiced pout. "O Prince!" he cooed. "It must have been so hard for you!"
Daedalus, without saying more, rushed out of the hut. He fled beyond the olive grove, to a burned-over slope and stopped. His breath would not come normally for some time. He was so angry. How could he have been so stupid as to let that wretched offspring of a Mycenaean foot-soldier and a drydock hussy follow him? he wondered, striking his thigh with fury. Finally, he took a walk and returned to the hut, acting as if nothing had happened. Theseus eyed him curiously when he returned, but said nothing more.
That night the boy slipped out again. Daedalus arose and went too. He saw Theseus heading down to the beach, and he continued to follow the boy. The girls slept down there, it was cooler with sea breezes in hot weather; and Daedalus was not surprised when Theseus went to the girls' little camp and was there a few moments, before slipping off with his lover.
Daedalus knew Theseus would be with her for quite some time. He followed, found them taking a dip, with Ariadne diving modestly in her clothes, while Theseus flung everything off as usual before plunging in the water.
When Theseus came in Daedalus was sleeping late and the boy had gone again when he awoke. Later, Daedalus was too busy with his new tools to go and find Theseus. As for Ariadne, he knew she was too ignorant to know what Theseus was after. It would be useless talking to such a child.
Theseus, several years older than Ariadne, sported hairs on his upper lip and would listen to nothing Daedalus tried to say. When a few days passed, and Theseus kept slipping off to the girls' camp, Daedalus decided to stay awake and catch him before he could get away.
Daedalus leaped from his bed and caught Theseus by the arm.
"You scum of a Mycenaean!" he cried to the startled boy.
Theseus turned and struck him. Daedalus caught the blow on his face and reeled backwards, stepping on sleepers, who cried out further when Theseus threw a chair at Daedalus which fell on them instead. Before Daedalus could block the door, the boy had darted out.
It was days before he reappeared, and Daedalus looked at him as if he no longer existed, having given him up completely as worthless trash of some drunken mariner and a port woman.
Theseus took to sleeping in the olive grove, not far from the girls' camp.
Daedalus knew all about it, but he knew he could do nothing. The boy was a wild animal, and would simply flee into the hills if he tried to stop him. Then he would always slink back, acting as if nothing had happened, and it would all begin again.
So Daedalus washed his hands of the whole, distasteful matter and returned to his boat building. He had talked to Athena, giving her some sharp words and warning her never to go near Theseus again, because they were both far too young to pair off. She had listened and then walked slowly away, glancing at him once or twice, then staying away from him altogether.
Several times after that, sober-faced Artemis, a friend of Ariadne's and a reasonable, cool-thinking girl, had come to him asking if Theseus could borrow his tools in the evening, so he could build himself a palace.
Daedalus refused to talk about it. He knew what Theseus had in mind. And the girl stopped coming.
Strangely, after sober-faced Artemis left him, the children found more and more reason to stay away from him too. Often he was the only one at the hut, and slept alone. He began to grow more lonely, and thought of Cilla down at the harbor. It became a constant thought, and he finally threw down his tools and left Fair Havens, returning in a few days to find his tools gone, boat burnt to ashes, and the hut knocked to pieces with chairs and bed thrown out on the ground.
Daedalus gazed at the ruin of all his hopes and sat down in the desolate hut. He tried to understand what had happened, but he got no further than Theseus.
The rebellious spawn of a sailor and a port woman for hire--having chosen the name of a robber and thief, a mortal enemy of Keftiu, was only proving true to his name. And he had obviously put the other children up to destroying the boat and house. Theseus had turned everyone against him. He tried to pray, but his heart had seemingly turned to iron, and all he could think of was how to avenge himself on the miscreant. Everyone, even the Most High, had let him down. He was reduced to poverty, with no hope of ever improving his situation.
The farm was stone, cold dead; for some time he had stopped trying to improve it; and the scanty rainfalls made every effort vain. His own limbs had grown thin, and he could not survive forever on olives and shellfish. On his visits Cilla fed him well enough with a banquet of good things the Mycenaeans imported from Mizraim, where the crops were still flourishing as usual, but she always complained when he came back so gaunt and hungry.
Tyrian grain was getting too expensive to even buy, she had told him. She might have to take ship next time to the Mycenaeans' fine and extensive kingdom, where every city had a proper, functioning palace like Keftiu of earlier days. And she had been thinking, she added, she might even rejoin her husband in Illios, where he had been given a fine house and shop next to the king's palace (the king being so bent on destroying the Mycenaean-Tyrian strangle-hold on trade in purple). After all, the wild animals were coming back in force--wolves, jackals, boars, and so on. Keftiu was not safe anymore for a civilized lady.
The thought of Cilla taking all her fortune (hard-earned wages, trinket after trinket won by pandering to barbarians!) and leaving Keftiu with the other kept women filled Daedalus with dread. He hated himself for going to Cilla, but he could not stay away indefinitely.
Always he had to get away for a time, but he eventually returned. And Cilla was not always pleased to see him when she opened her door so gaily decorated with dolphins and seagoing ships. Fully expecting an admiral or at least a booty-laden, Mycenaean navyman, her pretty-painted face always fell at the sight of him, though she recovered quickly enough.
He had nothing to give Cilla, and Cilla complained of always having to feed and clothe him for nothing. "Even a prince ought to find something to give a pretty lady," Cilla said as soon as he let her go and began to peel a fresh cucumber from the basket by her couch.
Now where was he to find gold and silver or fine clothes for Cilla? Cilla asked impossible things, even a bull for sacrificing to Lady Aspoth, as Cilla reverently called the earth-goddess. Did Cilla think he was a pirate of a Mycenaean, with a ship and men to sack unsuspecting cities and seize their wealth?
The next time he sought her they said angry things to each other. Kicking the basket of imported cucumbers against the wall, he stalked off to Fair Havens, and when he returned to the harbor he almost blundered into the Mycenaean fleet. They would have cut him with knives and skewered him with hot forks, making the most cruel sport of him, so he ran for his life and was very fortunate Cilla did not send men after him.
Patriotic in one respect, Cilla kept his identity secret, and so he was able to get away.
Afraid to return to the hut for several days, Daedalus lay in the dense thickets of the shore ridge, trembling at the thought the Myceanaens might be searching for him. It was some time before the old frenzy rose up like a bull in him sufficiently so that he gathered courage to go back to see if Cilla had softened toward him.
The huts by the water's edge were deserted; everything had been taken away, even the few donkeys and an olive press. The Mycenaeans had left nothing of value. Cilla and her pretty-painted door were gone forever. Daedalus hung about for some time, utterly dazed, drooping about Cilla's old haunt, which now reeked of stale wine and even more vintage perfume, and wondering what to do with himself. He turned back toward Fair Havens, but even that did not prove attractive, and he ended up at Knossos, sitting amidst the ruins. He was still there the next day, throwing pieces of bathchamber mosaic at the darting lizards and poison spiders, when sober-faced Artemis found him.
Daedalus saw her and rose shakily to his feet, for he was again weak from hunger. Artemis said nothing but came toward him gravely, wending her way through the shattered pillars and across broken statuary. She held something small and cloth-wrapped.
Daedalus gazed with horror at a perfectly formed but waxlike beginning of a child in the girl's hands. It might have been a doll, except he saw its umbilical cord, crudely severed and untied.
Artemis looked at him with a sad and wise expression beyond her years. She glanced away toward the mountains. "Theseus was afraid of what you might do; he could not help her; so he ran away, thinking you would kill him."
"Where is Ariadne?" Daedalus suddenly shouted, grasping the girls's thin shoulders and shaking her hard.
Artemis gazed at him wonderingly. "He's mine now. She gave him to me before she turned her face away."
She then began describing the scene, of her friend lying down by a little stream, and the baby left on the other side.
He searched but there was no sign of her. He rushed past the charred remnants of the boat and up the hill to the ridge. The stream stopped him. It was dry most of the year, but a sudden rain the mountain slopes above had sent waters down the dry bed of the little stream. In the sand and newly washed up mud he saw footprints of tiny feet. They crossed and recrossed the stream bank several times, each time trailing blood. He continued up to the ridge, searching the dead shrubs and trees that littered the rocks. No berries grew between the rocks now; the last strawberries had been gathered several years before and the leaves made into tea.
Daedalus was about to leave the ridge when he noticed a still-living tree partway down the slope. It was a salt pine that had kept alive drinking the salty, moisture-carrying winds that blew against the shore and killed most everything else. He went over to it, and in the shade he saw a child-handed form.
Ariadne was deathly pale and still, her face turned away from Fair Havens. He knew instantly what had brought her to such a desolate place. Just as a wild creature had would have done, she had crept off to die in a lonely spot.
Daedalus gazed at the dead girl who would never grow to full womanhood, whose tiny hands never seemed to grow and were always stained with strawberries. He sank down, and wrapped his arms over his head. "O God! Forgive me!" he cried.
His body was wracked with sobs. He was still there, keeping near the body, when Theseus appeared.
Hesitantly, the boy took a few steps toward Daedalus, then saw the form under the tree. Daedalus could not bear to look at the boy. His heart felt dead in his breast, and he knew the boy was not to blame. He turned to the boy with an expression no one could have mistaken. “Theseus!" he said.
The boy turned away without looking again at him.
Daedalus got up and tried to follow him, but the boy was fleet-footed and scampered off out of sight. Daedalus was left to bury the tiny, young woman that was Ariadne, and he had nothing with which to dig out the hard ground. First he took some colored sailcloth, stained with Theseus' royal purple, to cover her, and all the while he worked to lay stones around her, he wept over each stone he gathered and laid. He had nothing precious to give her; all she had was a simple, gold ring Theseus had found somewhere in the ruins.
Before he had finished, he grew aware of Theseus, watching him. The boy held a princess's gold coronet sparkling with pink crystals--until now just a trinket he had found in the palace and hidden away. Gently, he placed it in Ariadne's hands as Daedalus thought of whom it had belonged--but what a better owner now had it forever.
"I was afraid of you," said Theseus. “I feared you would beat me like a dog. You were always calling me one."
Daedalus could not find a reply.
After they finished the cairn, they stayed by the grave that night to watch. Theseus and Daedalus sat and did not speak, for there was nothing to say.
Finally, Theseus dropped his head and fell asleep.
When they returned to the hut, the children were there. No one could say a word about Athena, and they all sat together in the hut, crowding every inch, and it was hours later the girls ceased to weep. They wept like women, not children, with understanding of death.
Theseus sat looking like a bereaved husband. Even as Daedalus looked at the orphans, he saw how much they had grown. They were no longer children. They had all changed, but he had gone on the same. They were becoming young men and women. And he? Daedalus could not bear to think of what he had made of himself, and he went out to be by himself.
Life went on, but with the "children" back at Fair Havens, things changed for Daedalus. Theseus began speaking with him, seeking him out on various topics. They talked about the meaning of life and the after-life.
"What is the dark world of the shades beneath us like?" Theseus wanted to know.
Daedalus, who had described it before to them, related his story again.
But Theseus kept on with his questions. "Is that terrible place where we all go? You mean we must all suffer there forever?"
Daedalus could not answer the boy; the thought was appalling, but he did not know how the Most High decided who sat on the burning ground and who rested on flowered, higher ground.
"But, Daedalus, how could your God put Ariadne down there? She never harmed anyone or ever said an evil word about you!" Daedalus was surprised, for Theseus had not spoken her name since her burial.
"I do not think the Most High God put her there," he replied weakly. "Perhaps, only very evil people such as criminals and barbarians go to the burning valley and plain because they have done too much wrong in their lives to be accounted good, or worthy to live on the higher ground with good, civilized people."
Theseus looked at him with puzzlement. "What about your father the king? You said you saw him down there, and he was in the burning place! Was he an evil beast or barbarian to deserve such punishment?"
Daedalus was taken aback by the boy's probing wit. He thought hard to explain himself. The memory of Cilla also scorched his mind, and it was a struggle to answer Theseus without exposing himself. "I mean our own choices that we make here in this life might determine where we go, whether the burning valley or paradise. If we keep making wrong choices, our evil deeds mount up over our good deeds, just like in the weighing scales, and--"
"I do not understand," said Theseus forlornly, and Daedalus broke off, not convinced himself of what he was saying. He realized he really did not understand God's ways, or how it was decided who was to be punished in the Underworld.
They did not speak any more, and for days after Theseus disappeared into the hills. Finally, he walked back toward the hut with determination. "Daedalus," he said forthrightly. "We cannot all live like this anymore. We are not children and will soon choose for ourselves how we live. We must build a new boat and do something with our lives. This drought is going on, and there is less and less to eat, every day it is the same. If any of us should take wives and make babies, they will all die, because we have nothing. Daedalus, you have been father to us, what do you think we should do?"
It was hopeless, Daedalus thought. He dared not tell Theseus. He tried to humor, so he said, "I am thinking about looking for tools for more of us on the western shore, so do you want to come with me?" Together, they walked across the island, stopping at ruined cities and being attacked by the ravenous dogs of a few, poor families they found along the way; it was very hungry and dismal country through which they passed. The remaining sheep, goats and cattle were disappearing, eaten because there had been no crops for several years or more. Even robbers had ceased to exist; there was nothing left of value to take from anyone. No wonder only the high mountains were populated, and then with miserable, mostly-starved people who were fast forgetting all civilized ways.
They were weaker at the end of their journey, having found no tools or food; and were glad of the shellfish they could gather along the shore rocks. It was the only thing that kept them alive now. Sometimes a fish would wash in, or they caught one; but mainly it was shellfish, raw or cooked, that fed Daedalus and the young men and women at Fair Haven.
Fortunately, Theseus was a fish in water, much better than any other boy or even Daedalus, and could find excellent shellfish, very large, on the bottom; at first all the shellfish were eaten, and then they discovered more and more sea snails of a particular kind that produced a purple color prized by Tyre and Illios and even Mizraim, and put them aside for Theseus and Daedalus to use for dye-making.
Making a single drop of purple-producing liquid from each sea snail as he had seen it done in a palace workshop, Theseus persisted, drop by drop, until he filled vessels, and knew at last they had produced something of value, immense value, to trade Tyrians for more grain. They waited, and no ships came. Theseus hid the dye away, and it was forgotten. To pass the time, he again went diving--for what exactly, he did not say to Daedalus. Finally, he came to Daedalus and suggested another boat, the White Lady.
He began it himself, and after a while Daedalus, thinking how foolish he would look if he didn’t, joined in. The others youth took to helping, and the boat quickly took shape and began looking like one. They ransacked the entire island this time for materials, and produced a good sail and about everything else that was needed by hook or crook.
A Mizraimite merchant ship from Ibbatha did put in at the main harbor to take on more ballast (the hold was filled with Mizraimite linen goods for exchange for pottery wares in Illios and tin and copper in Tartessos). Theseus, hearing of it, ran and swam out to it before it could depart. He told them of the purple he had to trade, and they were very interested, going ashore with him to trade. A great fortune in purple and gold were exchanged, though Theseus sold only half and held back the rest. Singing a ribald, Mycenaean ditty about a lusty, cunning donkey and an unsuspecting ewe crossing a river together, Theseus returned staggering to Fair Havens with a very heavy bag of gold and another bag of even more precious grain.
The boat-building went on under Theseus's proddings, and their little craft was nearing completion when Daedalus felt more and more troubled. He could not sleep at night. His dreams, when he did doze off, were filled with chasms and rushing, dark rivers, and wretched shades tearing their hair. He saw his father's anguished face, day and night, and he could not concentrate on the boat anymore.
Theseus’s probing question had finally hit home.
How could his father--such a refined, civilized man!--have been so evil as to sink to the depths of Tartarus? he agonized. He might not have been as good as Athena, but, nevertheless, he wasn’t a criminal!
Finally, he had to tell Theseus to take charge of the boat project. He said he did not feel well. The lad put his arm around him and told him to rest. He and the others could finish the boat. So Daedalus went back to the hut to lie down. Lack of sleep had exhausted him; gray hair was appearing on his pillow. The children were no longer childlren, and he was no longer a youth. His knees felt weak when his legs had always been so strong.
“ I am waxing old,” he thought, “and I have not found the light as my father commanded! The Most High God is farther from me than ever before! And will He judge me, too, somehow unfit to enter Elysium when I die? I have done worse things than my poor father!” Daedalus took to wandering by himself, off toward the old ruins of the palace. Poison-hemlock vines covered everything now, and somehow found moisture to grow when trees and shrubs could not. Keftiu was a desert, a wilderness--and even the Mycenaeans had given up on it. Now they were the civilized ones! Once the most civilized and advanced country, Keftiu proved even too barbaric to their taste.
So Daedalus was free to walk about the entire land without fear of being killed or captured for Mycenae's slave markets. He had no interest anymore in flying or journeying anywhere again. He thought more and more about the things he had seen in the lower world. It obsessed him to think that his father, various friends, and even child-fingered Ariadne, were languishing in the depths, enchained in burning heat. Having given up all thought of ever going to Mizraim, he decided he was going to let the others go. As for himself, he gave no thought. His life had been wasted, he told himself. He had lost the way to the Light of the Most High that he had once trod.
He was certain he had darkened his heart irretrievably (and with it his understanding) the day he had gone down to the harbor, to learn the way of Cilla instead of the way to the Most High. He believed he had lost the path altogether. And he forgot the words that had come to him in the night seasons, urging him to call on the name of his God.
The voice was only the mocking, night wind, he told himself.
One night he left the others and went down to the boat; it lay finished in the harbor, close by the channel which the boys had been re-dredging. He could wade almost to the craft, and swimming a few feet he caught the rope that held the anchor (a stone-weighted plow) and drew himself up. He had some crude paints, wrapped in leather and tied to his head. It had not got wet, so he added finishing touches to the course he had drawn on the sail one day with Theseus watching and asking questions.
Theseus, he knew, would only have to look at the picture to determine direction and course. For indicating south and the shores of Mizraim he drew Aeolus as the prevailing wind, puffing hard at the stern of a little boat. Possibly another wind could send them off-course into uncharted waters; but that could happen if he were aboard. Throwing away the paints which stained the water chalk white and sooty black, Daedalus returned to shore. He did not go back to the hut, and continued walking until he had come to Knossos.
In the moonlight the palace appeared deceptively beautiful and intact. It was as if nothing had happened, and the people were only sound asleep. He himself might be lying in an upper chamber, fallen asleep on a not on his purple-cushioned couch but at a worktable while working on his wings.
All the hooting, with whistling wings overhead, reminded him that the place was only a haunt of owls, nightjars and bats; creatures of the night prowled the ruins now, and in the day the ringstraked lizards came out to play and catch shiny, green flies. Feeling chilled by the evening breeze, Daedalus entered the ruins, looking to find the way to the underground prison. He could not find it at night, and wandered about. Everything looked so different in the dark; he could not tell what was real from what was moonlight and shadow. Often he knocked against soft, recoiling, fleshlike things he feared were vipers or other abominable prowlers of the night.
There were holes everywhere in which he nearly fell, and his foot oftentimes slipped through roofs of chambers. He tried one doorway after another, but each chamber failed to lead to anything, as adjoining passages were blocked with fallen stone. Often he stumbled over bones of entire noble families in rooms he had never before visited; for the palace was full of those who took their lives rather than face the end of their gay and graceful world.
Yet he recalled his father's words, how they had ruined themselves with their evil ways even before the shaking the land and the destruction of their navy at sea. He also thought he ought to have stayed by his father's side, fought, and died honorably. Instead he had lived a useless life among wild, barbaric children. However much he loved them, he realized he was not needed. They had survived without him before, and he had only caused them grief by trying to make them civilized people.
With these thoughts, Daedalus pressed on in his search for the Labyrinth. The moonlight and all the shadows played tricks on his eyes. Several times a nightjar startled him as it swooped close, crying out as it sought out night-flying beetles. A solid-looking wall was really an open doorway or portal. A smooth terrace held a deep, dry pool. Things reaching to seize him turned out to be tendrils of long vines and ivy. Dried shrubs looked like people sitting among the ruins. He even thought, staring at one, he saw the old Wizard of Phaestos, muttering soundless incantations at the broken pillar.
He finally lay down with his back against the wizard's column. Moonlight bathed his face, and he shut his eyes against it. He was very tired, and footsore, and he was dozing when he head the sound of animals, bulls, bellowing somewhere in the depths of the palace. It was the same sound they had all heard the evening before the Great World Shaking.
He leaped up, shuddering, and heard more bellowing. Since the sounds were coming up from chambers he had not yet explored, he let himself down through the roof of one hall, climbing over masonry until he reached the mosaic floor. Just enough light remained to tell him where he might be. He saw dolphins playing amidst waves, and the high, eye-painted prow of the ARGO of the Fifty Champions, and knew it was his own room.
With a cry, half joy and half grief, he sank down on his knees and fingered his memory of a design on another mosaic, inspired by brave Icarus and his attempted sky-voyage to the world inhabited by winged gods, golden-fleeced heaven. It had been his own choice, when the room was re-decorated. He could not see the walls, it was too dark, but he knew the room, having visited it several times of late, and was glad he could not see again its condition.
The corridor, leading to his father's apartments, was impassable. He would have to climb back out, just as he had done the terrible night of the Great Shaking. Just the same, he put his hand around the corner of the doorframe, which should have held a door of shining, yellow brass. He was surprised to find the passageway was not blocked as he remembered. He went out, wondering what had happened. The entire corridor was free of stones and plaster, and he could walk all the way to his father's chambers.
After turning several times, the passageway ended at a pair of bronze doors. Largest of all the palace doors, they had been too massive even for the Mycenaean army to steal. To remove them, it would have been necessary to cut them in pieces; how they had been installed was his father's own secret, and he proudly called them Niredamos's Gates, after the trident-carrying dark lord of the underworld.
They swung easily, as they had in the past. Almost without sound, the doors opened to let him through. He went in, feeling his way along the entrance. He felt the weapons his father had collected from all over the world still lining the walls. Not one had had fallen from its place, for his father had secured them well with bronze hooks driven deep in the stone of the walls. He passed through a small, private audience hall, where his father conferred with only heads of state without his usual courtiers present. A throne was supposed to set at one end beneath a gold and silver picture of Keftiu and its seventy cities. Not even the public audience hall had so beautiful a decoration. Daedalus the first had made it.
Daedalus gave a cry. It could not be! he thought. He felt the throne again--the creation of his namesake fashioned of dazzling ivory and gold and electrum. His father had always looked so small when he was seated. There was one thing left. He did something he had to do. He stood on the throne and reached up. His fingers touched a massive, metal frame. He got slowly down and was sitting on the throne, wondering how such things could be when he heard someone clear his throat. He reared back against the throne.
"I thought you would come here sooner or later if I waited," the voice remarked in a casual way.
Daedalus sprang forward, drawing his little sword. He slashed several times in the direction of the voice.
"Now, now," the voice cautioned. "If you will not be civilized and talk like a prince, er, king to another king, I will call my guards and have you put in donkey fetters."
Daedalus dropped his arm. He knew who it was.
"Yes, Theseus His Royal Highness, if we must be formal." The robber king laughed. "Someday they will tell glorious tales about me, how I did this and that in the land of the mighty Keftiuans, but as for now we know how things really stand, don't we?"
That unhappy, fateful name again! Daedalus thought. He could never seem to escape it!
"Why not light a lamp, so I can at least look upon my father's foul murderer," Daedalus said bitterly.
"A good idea," replied the king.
Light flared from an oil lamp, and he held it up to his face, and Daedalus saw what looked to him like a boy Theseus aged to thirty, a pale and lightly-bearded Mycenaean, with a coronet of gold olive leaves shining in his tightly-curled hair. "Your mother considers me good-looking, almost as handsome as her glowing memory of you."
Daedalus refused to reply and stood waiting. The king looked at him in turn, sighed and blew out the lamp.
"Oh, my, I see your misfortunes have borne heavily on your shoulders, my boy. I think we talk better in the dark. And what I want to tell you is that Her Majesty is fine, she is quite happy in my palace in Mycenae and looks forward greatly to your coming."
"Never will she see me!" Daedalus shot back at him.
"You are certainly bold!" the king replied, with another laugh. "What choice do you have now? You are my royal prisoner, a kinglet without a kingdom. Your mother also told me to tell you it is silly to remain here and starve; and that you will soon forget little Keftiu when you see how lovely life is on the civilized mainland."
"You will never take me there!" the prince repeated.
The king cleared his throat. "Again, you have nothing to say, even if in better times you would have reigned in your father's stead. I think this audience is at an end. I must return to my ship. Illios refuses to pay me tax on purple, relying on his high walls. Then some Cyclades islanders who worship an absurd fish-god and presume to call themselves rightful sons of Herakles need a little lesson taught them. I will give you a few moments here if you like, to remember your father, but my soldiers will come for you. It is useless to run. You were walking by them all night without knowing, but they could see you perfectly. And I have given them orders to return your father's throne and the other pretty trinkets to my palace treasury."
"What did you do with the king?" Daedalus said, stifling a surge of fury.
"His ashes are resting comfortably in a nice, silver urn left by your namesake in your mother's keeping. She is, you should know, my consort. Now, to my palanquin--one manufactured, I believe, in the workshops of this splendid place!"
Daedalus heard the king's slippers move away. The robber-king was nearest the bronze doors. Then the whisper of the Tyrian slippers faded and Daedalus was alone. He sat on the throne, with his sword drawn. He was thinking about falling on it, rather than be taken alive and made to amuse Theseus's fawning court, like another one of the minstrel clowns barbarians thought more pleasing than true poets. He got down on the floor to press the blade point between the ribs of his left side, hoping the end would be swift and sure.
Daedalus scarcely felt the leather reins the soldiers tied around his hands. They led him out of the chamber and from his father's wing of the palace, back into the ruins, and then out to the road. There they stood paused to talk for a few minutes with a second commander, before giving him a push with the butts of their spears.
It was a clear, star-lit night, and was about the last hour before dawn. The dark was deepest and the moon and stars brightest when they began the walk to the fleet in the harbor. Suddenly, the earth bellowed and heaved with the stampede of a thousand bulls. The thunderous beat of their hooves instantly scattered the soldiers, throwing them in different directions. What made the men cry out in horror was a roar Daedalus had heard once before--a half-human cry. It was the torment and anguish and violent rage of a horned thing birthed of madness and ancient evil.
He heard the soldiers crying to their various gods to save them from the bull-man. It had to be the Bull of the Minos, the dread Minotaur they had all heard about, rising up to take vengeance on them. Some cursed Heaphes in their fright. The earth continued to shake and the taurus-man raged closer all the time.
Imported Mizraimite pillars formed the entrance to the Royal Hall of the Minos. The glory of Knossos, the three pillars had been erected at the 20-year jubilee of the reign of Daedalus's father. The first, as he watched nearby, suddenly shattered in the middle like a wooden ship on a reef, its drums of Ibbathan granite bounding away and scattering.
Daedalus could not see the second pillar as it was swaying and beginning to topple; but he heard it smash down amidst the city below. Only the third remained. In setting it up, his father had proudly pointed out the carvings that celebrated his navy and fleet. Seeing them, everyone said Keftiu's ship of state would sail and rule the seas forever. Not only the pillar, the ground itself disappeared. The last prince of Knossos and firstborn of the Minos gasped and shut his eyes.
When a moment later they were again opened, they looked upon flames, smoking, granite columns and arches of the doomed world. Far off two great doors of bronze opened to each soul that entered the Underworld. Yet an army of bright-clothed, golden-haired beings met and conducted Daedalus safely through the bronze doors, and he was immediately taken to visit his father.
Shielded from the heat and the attacks of warlike bulls that surrounded him and his father, Daedalus stood in Tartarus, overcome at the doleful sight of his father. Once a mighty sea-king with a peacock crown and ships and cities beyond counting, he crept out from Keftiu's multitudinous camp and clung to his son's knees like a common beggar.
"You must go now with us!" the bright-liveried beings warned Daedalus. "Niredamos himself is coming to detain you here, if he can. We may take only one of you from this place before the Prince of Glory comes to take the keys from Niredamos."
Indeed, even as they spoke, Daedalus heard a horrific bellowing erupt from all corners of the burning plain. Immediately a thundering of hooves meant Niredamos the dread lord were coming. Daedalus' own father shrieked and sought to pull from his son's grasp. "You must go!" the Minos cried. "There's no chance for you if you stay longer!"
"Take him instead!" Daedalus said to his companions.
Hearing his son, the face of the fallen Minos filled with shock and dismay. Words formed on his lips but could not be heard for the bellowing of hell's guardian-bulls. Without hesitating, the golden beings lifted up the struggling shade of the Minos and sped upwards toward the safety of the hills above the plain. Daedalus was left alone in the appalling heat and sulphurous stench.
What came of his decision was a rude surprise to all the powers of darkness that rushed to slay the upstart invading their realm. As they charged with animal horns turned down to impale the intruder, Daedalus caught a horn with his hands.