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horn.
Drawing another deep breath, and holding it this time, he vaulted up onto the
wheeled platform. Before he could locate the reins, or even confirm that any
existed, he heard a warbling of flutes and a clash of ghostly cymbals, the
panthers sprang forward, and the chariot shot up, lurching into the air.
At that moment the rattle of wheels on pavement ceased abruptly. Gripping the
railing with all his strength, Alex groaned and involuntarily closed his
eyes.
The last thing he saw was the moonlit vast complexity of the Labyrinth
falling
away beneath him, many of its thousand miles of twisted passageways now
visible
all at once.
When he opened his eyes again, moments later, most of the island of Corycus
was
spread out below, with faint points of light outlining the sprawling city,
and
marking the other settled places. Here and there a lone spark from lamp or
hearth marked, he supposed, an isolated dwelling.
Everything was quiet, except for the rush of air. The soft feet of the
leopards,
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running over a soft carpet of mere air and cloud, made no sound that human
ears
could hear.
At last his ears were able to pick out a fainter murmur in the air around
him.
He understood that the tattered remnants of the minor powers were
accompanying
him upon this journey. Somehow the little chariot was able to contain them
all,
or drag them with it through the sky.
Twelve
The last thing that Edith, the girl from Dia, could remember was . . . a
monstrous, animal-like figure looming in front of her . . . her own voice,
shouting in terror, pleading with Apollo, Alexikakos, averter of evil, to
save
her from the bloody horror that threatened.
Standing in line with the others of the Tribute, she had been shocked by an
outcry, and had looked up in utter amazement to see Prince Theseus escape.
She
had watched, as with startling fury he struck down a guard, with what speed
and
strength he hauled himself over a wall and out of sight.
Such feats were not possible for her. But suddenly it was no longer possible
to
simply, meekly, wait for pain and death. In a moment, she too was running as
fast as she could . . .
Now, regaining consciousness with the sense that hours of drugged sleep must
have passed, she remembered few details of the peril from which she had been
rescued. Her head ached, and thirst was parching her mouth and throat.
Then, with a shock, something like full memory returned, and she sat up.
Even on the last morning of their lives, many of the eighteen had not
believed
that they were doomed to die. The upcoming ceremony meant only that they
would
be initiated somehow into Shiva's cult.
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For days she and her doomed companions, an assortment of young folk who
seemed
to come from every quarter of the Great Sea, had been aware that this was the
morning when they were to meet the god. Shiva, the Compassionate, as his
priests
described him, who took an interest in their welfare . . . then the first
victims were marched up to the cages, and shut in. There followed the glowing
iron and sharp, cruel knives, the dripping blood. What Edith now remembered
most
clearly of all was her own body's reaction, the burst of panic breaking
through
the fog of drugged wine, to send her running madly for her life . . .
Now everything around her was silence, tranquillity giving at least the
appearance of safety. Bright sunlight, coming at an angle not far from that
of
midday, touched part of one high wall above her. Apollo, lord of light, you
have
not yet entirely forsaken me.
She had awakened lying on a kind of curved stone bench, built into one wall
of
the Maze at a place where several passages came together, forming a clear
space
roughly circular, about three yards in diameter. The miniature courtyard thus
created had five entrances or exits, five doorless apertures, each leading to
a
different corridor. Three of the connecting ways were roofless, and all of
them
curved out of sight after only a few yards. She was still dressed in the [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]