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The Blind Harper Of Kriti Pt 1: Grapes In A Bed

King Prosus would not put up with any more fussing. He was regally dressed minus his crown which was not brought with him to Grapes In A Bed, but no one expected him to live. That he did was credited to his enormous will and the love of his young cousin whom he called princess though her mother’s coronation as Queen of Kriti was still days away.

Princess Ariadne was a handful and a pup at Persea’s side. The kid, as Persea called her, had talents not limited to singing, dancing and carrying on. She had an ability like Persea’s own; she could pretty much know what people were thinking but she didn’t read their minds; she read their bodies.

“I’m going with you,” she announced.

“There is no reason for you to go to the Idaian Caves,” Persea answered.

“You’re going to the glen to see Cybele and I’m coming along,” Ariadne replied.

“At whose invitation?” challenged Persea.

The answer popped into her head a second before Ariadne replied.

“Cybele,” said the princess, raising her head and closing her eyes.

“What are you doing?” asked her older cousin.

“I’m opening my mind and letting you in,” answered Ariadne.

“I see,” said Persea, smiling at the thought.

A few minutes later they were on their way.

After an hour they were met by riders on horseback.

“Ariadne!” cried a big man clad in a sheepskin jerkin and hemp trousers, “Come along. You’re mother is back from Iolcos,” but then he recalled what was being said about Persea, “Can your cousin really read minds?”

“I’m not coming home, father,” answered his daughter, “Cybele needs me.”

“What have you put into this girl’s head?” asked Minos.

“I’m trying to convince her to go with Uncle Prosus to Lasithi,” Persea replied.

Only then did Minos recognize his nephew.

“Great gods, man!” bellowed Minos, “You shouldn’t be traveling!”

“Whatever our disagreements, uncle, I must be the rock they find when they arrive,” answered the Antallean king.

It was so sensible that Minos could only agree.

“Ariadne,” added her father, “No more nonsense. You’re coming home with me.”

The wind picked up and clouds rolled in. Fog descended. Lanterns appeared on both sides of the road, swinging incessantly. Out of the fog came two riders of the Cabeiri.

“Pay no heed to your father,” said Idas, “Cybele sends for you and Persea as well.”

Ariadne had never traveled the Road to Corybantia and was disappointed to see it was like any other road and that Corybantia was like any other place, except that she couldn’t be seen by anyone who might be traveling the old Kriti Highway. Not that anyone was.

The road to Lasithi was built over the old highway which was the physical part of the Road to Corybantia. Corybantia is where Cybele had her cottage in a beautiful glen surrounded by all the different kinds of life there is in the world. An exception are the Lapraxus because she dislikes them and thinks them an irritation.

“Dear!” cried Cybele, “Company!”

Dalius came down in his slippers and smoking jacket.

“It’s you,” he said, “Can’t get enough everything cookies?”

“I asked her to come and Persea, too,” Cybele told him, “So be nice!”

“I don’t know why I’m even here,” muttered Dalius as he walked away.

“Never mind your grandfather,” said the Goddess of the Earth, “He hates being awakened from his mid-morning nap.”

“Then why did you wake him?” Persea asked.

“It’s time for him to wake up and who better to blame it on, but that’s not why I asked you here. I have a job for each of you,” declared Cybele.

“Persea, I suppose your grandfather has already told you about your unique assets. I don’t approve of genetic engineering, especially if it’s done with paleolithic tools, but in your case the damage is done and that explains the chip on your shoulder. I want you to have this old cloak I’ve got lying around. It was Marduk’s, but since he’s become a blight on the face of all that exists I can’t bear to have it here. With this cloak there’s not much you can’t accomplish.”

“I don’t understand,” admitted Persea.

“You are young, it’s true,” sighed Cybele, “Marduk is coming back for his soul and if he gets his hands on it…well, it’s just not a good fit if you know what I mean. Here, take it.”

Persea grabbed for what wasn’t there and felt the softest, sheerest and most incredible fabric she’d ever touched.

“Why can’t I see it?”

“The Power of Marduk is not to be seen. It is to be worn like a second skin. If I give it to you, you must swear never to take it off.”

She donned the invisible dress and was surprised when it slipped under her clothing. It was cold and clingy at first but it warmed up as it became part of her.

“You look beautiful,” beamed Cybele, “Now swear it.”

She could almost feel that it wasn’t there, but she could feel that it was, and that part was invigorating.

“There’s nothing you’re not telling me, is there? I shouldn’t worry…”

“I guess you wouldn’t be your father’s daughter if you weren’t a little suspicious. It’s when people get more than a little suspicious that I’m likely to blow my top.”

“And…” Persea asked, waiting for more.

“And I would never treat anyone but Marduk as despicably as you are implying,” she said, “It’s a good thing I’m in a good mood or I might take it out on Ariadne.”

“Hey!” objected the princess.

“As for you,” spoke the Goddess of the Earth, “If I hear another word about following in your mother’s footsteps I’m going to clean your clock. Under no circumstances are you to go to Iolcos and study with your Aunt Circe.”

“I hadn’t planned to,” replied Ariadne.

“I don’t care what your plans are,” warned Cybele, “You are going to travel the world in a professional dance band whether you like it or not. You’re going to belt it out in Argos and woo them in Anatolia and bring them to their knees in Thebes. If anyone says otherwise tell them you’re on a mission from the goddess.”

“Wow!” she exclaimed, “Thanks!”

“Don’t thank me, young lady. You’re an artist. You will learn to bleed.”

“Just wait until my father hears about this,” she giggled.

“You don’t think he’s going to believe you, do you?” laughed Cybele, “Dear girl lesson one in being an artist is your parents are never going to accept your decision. Lesson two is no matter how hard you work you’re always going to be tired, hungry and broke, which is the reason for lesson one. Do I need to list lesson three?”

“Uh, I guess not.”

“I will anyway,” Cybele insisted, “No matter how good you are there is always someone trying to tear you down, grind you up, pound you to a pulp…”

“Have you got some issues, Grandmother?” interrupted Persea.

“Creation is nothing if not art,” snapped the Goddess of the Earth, “You’d think I’d get some respect but everyone’s a critic!”

“I guess we’ll be running along now,” said Persea.

“You can’t leave,” thundered Cybele, “I’m baking and I know you girls want a cookie.”

“I’ve been putting on a little weight,” Persea replied, “or it might be the dress. I feel like I can do anything I want to do no matter what anybody says, even Father Time.”

“You still have to obey me, granddaughter,” cautioned Cybele.

“I don’t see why,” Persea replied.

“Oh you don’t, do you?”

Cybele looked like she was about to burst her guts.

“You’re right, grandmother, but we should go before Minos decides the Cabeiri can’t be trusted,” reasoned Persea.

They left through the gate by the watchful eye of Salmud the gatekeeper and took the garden path home to Lasithi. Somehow, they got there hours before her father did.

Persea turned right around and went back to the Idaian caves to meet the Cabeiri.

When Minos and his party did arrive the erstwhile King of Antallis, a nation no more, had one last duty to discharge.

“Ah, Good King Prosus,” greeted Lapraxus as the blind man was led into the office.

The office was what passed for the throne room in the rustic sheep farm that was the palace of the first Queen of Kriti. No one at the time thought the sheep farmer would matter.

Minos was Regent of Antallis for a few days because his wife would have nothing of it. The Antalleans were his side of the family. She thought to herself, if Minos is going to be regent she’d go to Aeaea and visit her sister, but Circe wasn’t home; she’d gone to Iolcos for the wedding of Acastus and Atlanta, which would technically make Acastus the king regnant, but they all knew that Atalanta would assert the ancient traditions and claim her right to rule.

Another reason no one thought Minos would matter was that at the first opportunity he abandoned Antallis, leaving it’s problems to his nephew Taros. That’s not how it really happened but it’s how it was perceived so all eyes were on his wife, the future Queen of Kriti, Pasiphae, the strong-willed sister of Circe of Aeaea.

Minos wasn’t even taking part in the discussion. His business day was finished so he had taken up his brush and palette. He was painting the scene for posterity as his wife and her Chief Steward, the very same Lapraxus, received the King of Antallis.

“Do I know you sir?” wondered the more or less blind man.

“I have heard of you,” replied Lapraxus, “My brothers and I watch your career and we find no need to intervene. If all monarchs were like you there might be no need for Lapraxus. Hmmmmmmmm?”

“I am a poor king and a worse harper,” Prosus told him, “I am motivated solely by the wish to enjoy life. As monarchs are wretched at heart I am not even the worst of them, so as you see, I am worthy of no supplication.”

“How refreshing,” said Lapraxus, beaming in his direction.

“My music, on the other hand, is deserving of respect,” added Prosus.

“Why is that, friend king?” asked Pasiphae, trying out the formal salutation.

“It is given to me like a mother gives a lullaby to a child,” he told her, “I believe they are the songs of the gods and I merely pass them on.”

“Splendid,” sang Lapraxus, “My queen, I do hope you accept him.”

Pasiphae nodded politely.

“The Court of Kriti thanks you for your presence,” she said formally.

Finally she couldn’t take any more of the silly talk, “Prosus, you look horrible! Come sit with me. There will be plenty of time for this foolishness when Circe gets here.”

So ended Pasiphae’s first day of formal instruction in how to be a queen.

Her husband’s most important job was to protect Ariadne whether she liked it or not.

“I’m sending you to Grapes In A Bed so they won’t take to you Iolcos,” he told her.

“NO!” Ariadne screamed, “I’m not going back to that horrid place.”

“Menjik told me you liked it there. You were always going on about how good it was for Uncle Prosus…”

“He said that!” she shrieked, “It was always Ariadne don’t do this! Ariadne don’t go in there! Yadayadayada.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” said her father, “Uncle Prosus is hoping you’ll be there if he has to bail on the coronation party, and Menjik wants you to work in his kitchen.”

“How wonderful,” she replied.

“It could be a steady job,” he told her, “When Uncle Prosus gets back you might even have a show on the weekends.”

“Yeah, right. How well do you know Menjik, daddy? He might even be a Cabeiri!”

“Menjik is not a Cabeiri,” assured her father, “If he were we wouldn’t be able to see him now would we?”

“That shows how much you know,” she answered.

“Ariadne!” he barked, “You are going to Grapes In A Bed or you are going with your Aunt Circe to Iolcos where you will be forced to have many, many children.”

“Children?” she asked, her disgust evident.

“I won’t even recognize you when I come to Iolcos to visit,” he added.

“But I’ll miss the party!” she wailed

“Go with Uncle Dionysus,” he commanded, “You might even like it there.”

Day was dawning when Ariadne and her uncle Dionysus set out for Grapes In A Bed. She’d been home for less than a week and the hustle and bustle of the preparations were a constant fascination. She didn’t want to leave and it was painfully obvious.

“I’m missing the feast,” complained Ariadne again, “It’s all your fault. Just wait until Jasius hears about this!”

“How do you know that name?” asked Dionysus, “Jasius is a two headed giant with no respect for anybody, least of all children.”

“That shows how much you know,” she told him.

“Just be glad the Cabeiri have never heard of you,” cautioned Dionysus.

“Uncle Dion you make me so mad,” she fumed.

“It’s not me your mad at.”

“How would you know?”

“Circe wants you to have babies but you’d rather play music with the Blind Harper of Kriti,” he said, “Simple.”

“Who’s that?” she giggled.

“Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of the world’s greatest harper,” he said.

“Uncle Prosus isn’t blind.”

“He might as well be,” he told her, “So what if we stretch the truth a little?”

“That’s stretching it a lot Uncle Dion.”

“That’s showbiz,” smiled her uncle.

“You’re weird,” she told him.

It was raining hard when they reached the fork in the road. Menjik had yet to finish the grading so the way was dangerous but their horses were Cabeiri bred. Finally the old inn was close up ahead.

“Come in,” said the little man waiting outside in the rain, “I’ll take your horses.”

Menjik led the beasts away as they ducked inside.

A roaring fire greeted them. Hanging from a hook was a pot of imported black tea from the east. A row of glasses edged with gold invited the travelers to drink and likewise did a lavish cheese board invite them to eat.

“Are we the only ones here?” asked Ariadne.

“I would say so,” Menjik replied, “You’re probably too clumsy to wash dishes. You have to do something. Have you ever made a cloudy day?”

He took a cut crystal goblet from under the bar.

“First you fill it with goat’s milk,” he said. Finding some he filled it three quarters to the top, “Then you put in brandy. The finest in the world made from your father’s wine.”

“My father doesn’t make brandy,” she answered, sniffing it.

“I do,” said Menjik with a grin.

He offered Ariadne a sip and then he drank the rest of it himself.

“The most popular drink in Sarmatia,” he said, “What do you think?”

“Yecch!”

“Learn to like it,” said her new employer, “You’re going to be making a lot of them. Come with me.”

He led her to a locked door, one she was never under any circumstances supposed to open, but she would go no farther.

“Little girl,” said Menjik, “You would not be here if your father didn’t trust me.”

She reluctantly followed. She forgot her fears when she saw Menjik’s still.

“Wow!” gushed the wide eyed princess, “What’s it for?”

“Making brandy,” replied the little man, “Let me show you how it works.”

The stinging rain pounded on the still house roof but Ariadne didn’t notice.

“Why didn’t you show me this before?”

“And bring down the wrath of Queen Pasiphae?” he answered, “Just the same, now that we are officially working together there are certain things you need to know.”

“My mother knows you’re going to teach me how to make brandy?”

“I never said…” he began, but he thought better of it, “Let’s say there may have been a few details I forgot to mention.”

She was going to like it here after all, she thought. Menjik, in spite of his reputation, was a nice man. She sighed and wondered how it all got so crazy.

Menjik laid out his plans after supper. Sitting by a fire roaring on apple wood they heard all about his plans for Grapes In A Bed.

“Against that wall,” he pointed, “I’ll put in a stage with lime lights. Think of it. Four thousand homesick Antalleans. Do you see it?”

“I don’t,” admitted Dionysus.

“Epimedes does,” replied Menjik, “He’s paying for it.”

Even Menjik would not dare tell lies about the Cabeiri, thought Dionysus. He would have to rethink this scheme of his.

“I’m off,” said Dionysus, “It’s a new day tomorrow.”

Circe arrived at Lasithi the next day. She was disappointed to hear that Ariadne had taken a job in the White Mountains.

“She’s a nature girl,” said Minos, “Whole grains, range fed aurochs; she won’t touch fry bread. She wants to live to be a hundred and fifty. She might make it, too.”

“Come now, proud father, there’s not a girl been born who won’t sneak a little sugar on the sly,” chided Circe, “but I hear she wants to be a singer. I know I don’t have to tell you it’s not a proper occupation for a Princess of Kriti.”

“It’s just a phase,” answered Pasiphae, “Ariadne knows her place is in Lasithi.”

“For now,” agreed Circe, “Come spring I expect to see her at the Temple in Iolcos.”

“With Cybele’s blessing,” agreed Pasiphae.

The day after that the Great Ladies began to arrive. They came by horse and by ship, but they did not come by balloon. The sky was too angry and the mountains spat fire.

Antallis Peak had once risen four thousand feet above the desert floor, a lone sentinel in a vast caldera over three hundred and fifty miles long. Now it was a smoking island in an even larger sea that stretched from Mount Scylla in the east to Lake Tyrren in the west and it was getting larger. There was no doubt in Circe’s mind that the Highlands of Kriti were the most strategically placed soon-to-be-islands in the Aegean Sea.

Forty-nine unwelcome guests included Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. They were unwelcome as far as Circe and her entourage were concerned, which included Pasiphae, but they were a huge reason why Taros and the refugees had made it out of Land’s End.

The story was too thrilling to leave untold and it was the buzz of the hour whenever a new group of Great Ladies arrived. Taros himself had come ahead of his nation, both to meet with his brother King Prosus and to make sure that his family had a place at the table.

Helios Phaethon Hyperion was there in his capacity as the Steward of Cybele. It was his right and responsibility to see to the details of the royal marriage, a task he relished for all the wrong reasons.

He had brought with him the wounded and convalescing Druid of the Gimric, the man called Bear.

Helios put his best face on the fact that his prized creations were not on display. He was proud of Ariadne. She would one day make a Great Lady but today she was nowhere to be found. He was most proud of Persea, but she was absent from his thoughts. It was a mystery and a worry.

“Perhaps a bit more lemon,” he said to the cook who’s name was Schoenius.

“It was perfect until you put your finger in it!” accused the chef, “Leave my kitchen at once!”

“You would do well to remember your place,” advised Helios.

“I’ll not remember a thing, mind reader,” he replied.

Helios smiled. The cook’s thoughts were not hard to know.

“You and I are much alike,” suggested the priest. Schoenius ignored him.

“Did you know that you are a Prince of Orchomenos?” added the Steward of Cybele.

Schoenius abruptly stopped his cutting and looked into the priest’s eyes.

“You lie!”

“I have no reason to lie,” insisted Helios, “I have every reason to tell the truth. I will make you King of Boetia and that will warm Atalanta’s heart. She is your daughter, isn’t she, even though Circe married her mother to Iasu? Let me repay the debt my sister owes you.”

“You can do this?” asked the cook.

“You know I can,” replied the priest.

“What do you want?” asked Schoenius.

“Nothing,” replied Helios, “except that you remember who has done this.”

Schoenius was silent as the priest dipped his finger in the sauce.

“It’s perfect,” he declared, “Do not change a thing.”

The sun was overhead and feasting had begun. Pasiphae would be crowned with the rising of the moon. Whether it would be seen was the question. The sky was dark with the stuff of mountains.

Helios saw in the sky an omen and then he saw Taros riding into view.

Among the guests was the stunning Queen Cytherea of Cyprus, the youngest daughter of King Kirta. He had given his name to the empire he created. It stretched from Sumer to Cyprus.

Cytherea’s father was a rarity: a powerful king. Only Aities had a bigger club but he had the advantage of having Circe for a sister. Cytherea was said to be the granddaughter of Dione. What that meant was an open question.

It meant opportunity to Helios. Cytherea was bound by the laws of the temple and she would be his means to the Sword of Theosadartis.

Taros looked a god atop his steed. His guard followed in a file that stretched half a mile down the road. Taros was Antallis, wrapped in a handsome package and ready for bed.

“That is Taros?” asked Cytherea as she drenched her fingers in lemon sauce.

“He is like no man alive,” declared Jocasta, Queen of Thebes.

“Please! Every man is different,” replied the Arete, Queen of Phaecia.

“I fear you must share him with Circe,” counseled Jocasta.

“And if I don’t?” challenged Cytherea.

“Great Ladies, shall I freshen your plates?” offered Helios.

“Thank you, Steward,” replied Arete, “but first, do you think Taros would be a good match for Queen Cytherea?”

Lightening struck close as a wave of darkness rolled in. Wind picked up and tarps blew off their poles. Minos ran madly from tent to tent, but there was no saving the canvas. Schoenius had moved his kitchen inside and would not make room for wet aristocracy. Then he thought of Atalanta. What was lemon sauce compared to his daughter?

“Since there’s going to be no music,” announced Prosus, “I’ve a mind to go to Grapes In A Bed.”

“In this?” objected Dionysus.

“It’s nothing, especially if you can find the Road to Corybantia. You can find the Road to Corybantia, can’t you?”

“Of course I can. I’m a god for gods’ sake,” Dionysus replied, “Not that it means anything anymore, but I can still find the Road to Corybantia. Let’s see…”

“The old Kriti Highway,” reminded old King Prosus.

“Do you want to go now?”

“Yes. And take the big harp,” commanded Prosus, “Pasiphae will never miss it.”

“I can’t go now!” objected Dionysus, “The god of wine must offer the toast. Why on earth do you want to leave?”

“‘We’re all so sorry about your face’,” mimicked the king, “‘and it’s such a pity what happened to your little kingdom.’ Some god, afraid of missing a toast!”

“Very well,” agreed Dionysus, “I will take you on the Road to Corybantia.”

The wind had proceeded to a gale. They met Minos closing up the animal pens. His workmen were building a wall of canvas to protect the grape vines.

“In twenty years at Lasithi,” said the sheep farmer, “I’ve not seen anything like this.”

“Still, it should be sunny and warm in Corybantia,” added Prosus.

“What about Corybantia?” asked Minos, “You don’t believe in that stuff.”

“My brother’s commission in the Cabeiri and my recent afflictions gave me reason to revisit my suppositions,” informed Prosus.

“The apostate king returns to the fold,” chuckled his Uncle Minos, “Is that what you came out here to tell me? Dion, where are you going with that harp? By the gods, you can’t leave; I need you here! Just because you can find the Road to Corybantia doesn’t make you a god! Are you just going to ignore me? Dion, get away from that cart! Dion! Prosus! Great gods, why do I bother?”

Two days later Menjik knocked hard at the garret door. Prosus wouldn’t open it.

“I hear you singing, Ariadne. I need you! We have customers!” he shouted.

Prosus shuffled to the door and locked the bolt.

“Higher,” he said.

“Ahhhhh,” sang Ariadne.

“Higher,” he pushed, “higher!”

“Uncle Prosus, I can’t sing any higher,” she complained, “Isn’t that good enough?”

“It’s wonderful,” chuckled Prosus, “I’ve already written a song for you. I didn’t know where to put it.”

He tuned here and there, and then picked a melody on his five good strings.

“I call it The Olive Tree, and it goes like this.”

He started slow, and then he found a groove, going from the bottom to the top every eight beats. He returned to the first line, but faster this time. After many repeats it became a dance beating ever faster until it abruptly stopped.

“Do you like it?” asked the harper.

“Are there words?” she asked.

“Not yet,” replied Prosus, “What do you want to sing about?”

“An olive tree, I guess,” she smirked.

“What about it? How it creaks in the wind? The sheep that climb in the boughs?”

“Uncle Prosus, that’s silly. What about how it’s all twisted up and the longer it lives the more twisted up it gets,” she said.

“How old are you? Twelve? You’re not supposed to think like that until…”

“Thirteen,” she giggled, “I’m older than you think.”

“I suppose you are,” he agreed, “Life is like an olive tree. The older it gets, the more gnarled it becomes. Do you have a second line?”

“Love is like an olive tree, a gnarled and twisted tragedy, what is left for you and me, when all around us dies, how does love survive?”

The harper’s hands fell from his harp.

“When did you write that?”

“Just now, Uncle Prosus, do you like it?” she wondered.

“It’s…fabulous,” he told her, “Keep going.”

By evening they had finished the verse and rehearsed it a few times, and they began another as well. Ariadne had a lot to say about olive trees.

The doors to Grapes In A Bed swung wide for the fiftieth time that day. The public room was half filled with drinking and bored warriors. Dionysus was there to keep the peace but a solution was needed. Menjik was trying to find one in the harper’s garret.

“Just a few songs, to keep them occupied,” he pleaded, “All you do is sit up here, day after day, playing your harp and singing with Ariadne!”

“We’re not ready yet,” he insisted, “We need a little more time.”

“Ten minutes!” declared Menjik, “And then it’s time to earn your keep!”

“The nerve of some people,” complained the harper, “He never would have talked that way to King Prosus!”

“You’re not a king anymore,” Ariadne told him.

“Hmph,” snorted the harper, “I can’t perform with five strings! Menjik’s an ass!”

“He saved your life, Uncle Prosus. He lets you stay here. He cooks your food. How come you don’t ever say anything nice to him?”

“I do,” he said, and then he thought about it, “I don’t, do I?”

“No.”

“Well, let’s go make him happy,” Prosus said sadly.

“With only five strings?” she asked hopefully.

“They’ll have to do, won’t they?” he said, and he shuffled toward the door.

Five minutes later Ariadne descended the stairs. She held everyone’s interest because of the immense three-octave harp that she carried. With her back arched almost over she wrestled the thing step by step until a gallant Sarmatian took it carefully from her.

“…and here they are! No, that’s just the help, ladies and gentleman. No need to get excited,” grinned Menjik, relieved by the sight of her, “at least not yet!”

The harp was put next to where he stood at the side of the room, where he’d always thought the stage should be, and then Ariadne dashed back up the stairs.

She returned a few minutes later dressed in a black hood and cowl, which hid her shape, and because she was tall for thirteen it made her look older than she was. Ariadne led the harper by the hand. She’d straightened his hair, put a hat on his head, and bandaged his eyes with linen so that he looked more presentable.

“Warriors all!” announced Menjik, “May I present The Blind Harper and Princess Ariadne.”

A couple of well-oiled patrons whooped it up, but most drank in boredom.

“Is she a real princess?” yelled a wise guy.

“She is, so don’t get any ideas,” answered Menjik, wagging a finger like the perfect MC, “Her mother is the queen of this mountain. Let’s have a hand for Queen Pasiphae!”

Nobody clapped. Perhaps no one had heard of her.

Ariadne helped her uncle to his harp. He made adjustments to the tuning and plucked the strings. Ariadne’s drum would fill in the low notes. Anyway, who cared. It was another afternoon at Grapes In A Bed.

The Harper picked a fast melody with his scarred fingers and Ariadne beat on the drum. She danced in a circle on the small stage and for a finale she jumped onto the packed earth floor. A few warriors leered lasciviously at the young girl, and a few more applauded politely as she finished her dance.

Ariadne set her drum aside and introduced the first song.

“This is called The Olive Tree,” she said coyly as Prosus began to play.

It was near dark. The inn was packed. Menjik was showing Dionysus how to prepare a Cloudy Day, just in case he must, when a new problem walked through the door.

Two soldiers of the temple went to the bar, and six more to the stage, spilling drinks as they went. The largest pushed Prosus out of his way, sparing the harp.

“No one will leave,” he said in a booming voice, “and no one will get hurt.”

As soon as he said it another figure walked in. By his hawk face and bald pate he was unmistakable. His black robes edged in white were neither stylish nor expensive. Smiling his warm and disarming smile, Helios Hyperion spoke loudly and softly at the same time.

“I have here,” he said, holding it high for all to see, “a vial of red gold from Colchise. It belongs to him who brings me the Sword of Theosadartis!”

He nailed it to a high beam where all could see it and then he spoke again.

“Touch it and know the wrath of Cybele,” he said.

Before leaving he gave to the harper a brand new set of strings for a three octave harp and he bought food and drink all around.

Menjik made mad motions for the music to resume so Ariadne beat a rhythm on her drum. In time the harper joined her and the festivities began anew.

At the end of the performance Prosus approached Dionysus.

“Can you believe the priest?” he asked, holding the precious gut to his eyes, “First his goons push me around and then he gives me the most expensive strings money can buy.”

“Did he mention Ariadne?” asked Dionysus.

“He looked right at me,” she said, “He didn’t say a word. It was creepy.”

“He really is a mind reader,” concluded Dionysus.

“I hear you’re an old theater hand,” said Prosus, changing the subject, “Is it true?”

“When I was young,” he replied.

“Ariadne’s good,” said the harper, “She’s going to need an agent.”

“What have you got in mind?”

“A tour perhaps, with stops in Argos, Athens and Iolcos. I’ll give you ten percent of net revenues.”

“Wow!” exclaimed the princess, “Really?”

“Net means nothing in theater world,” replied Dionysus, “and I’m needed in Lasithi.”

“For what? Making wine!” scoffed the former king, “How many people can manage an orchestra?”

“Manage an orchestra?” chuckled Dionysus, “I thought I was going to be the agent of Princess Ariadne.”

“It’s the worst job you’ll ever love,” answered old King Prosus, “Dion, I’m not asking it in my name alone, I’m asking you in Cybele’s name too.”

“When did you become religious,” laughed Dionysus, “and where is your orchestra?”

“With Lapraxus running things in Lasithi I thought you’d want to get far away from there,” answered the old king.

“Do you know this?” asked the wine maker, trembling with anger.

“Then you have heard,” said Prosus, shaking his head, “It is a difficult thing.”

“Difficult on one’s own land?” asked Dionysus bitterly, “I think not.”

“You’ve never dealt with a Lapraxus, have you?” laughed the old king.

“I will consider your offer,” said Dionysus, “but before I go your niece will need help bending the wood.”

“How did you know that?” asked the harper excitedly.

“I’m an old stage hand who’s strung many a harp,” he replied, “stand back!”

A few minutes later the harp was strung.

“Give it a pluck, old friend,” said Dionysus, tipping the harp back upright.

Prosus did. All the strings were in place. They needed only to be tuned.

“Thank you,” said Prosus, but he didn’t have a tip for the stringer, “See my manager. He’s an evil looking wretch dressed all in black with an eye for the little girls. He’ll set you on the right path. Be off with you now.”

Somewhere in the conversation Ariadne started a beat. The big tar she’d made from an Antallean barrel round was going through the crowd. Coins and flowers filled it slowly.

“Give me your red gold, daddy,” she sang to a rusty haired Sarmatian, “Give me a push and I’ll give you a shove.”

Just before his hands found her thirteen year-old hips she danced coyly away.

“Give me your poor heart, baby…”

“What does the priest want with the Sword of Theosadartis?” wondered Menjik.

“I don’t know,” answered Dionysus, “but I imagine that when he finds it, it will sing no more loudly than the virgin princess!”

“What are saying?” asked Menjik, scandalized, “She’s the king’s daughter.”

“All the more reason to keep your eye on her,” said Dionysus.

Menjik did, and he was horrified.

“Ariadne!” he shouted, but the inn was too packed and the din was too loud.

“Can you play it! Slay it! Pay it!” she snarled, “That’s the Price of Love!”

She fell to the stage with a flourish, shaking the last bits of rhythm from her drum, and then the house erupted.

Dionysus quickly took the stage. He put himself between Ariadne and the big brawny men as she helped her uncle to the wings.

“Princess Ariadne and the Blind Harper of Kriti,” he shouted as Ariadne led her uncle to the bar, “We’ll hear more from them a little later. Right now Cloudy Days are half price and for those who can’t wait the fish fry will be early tonight. Now, it is my pleasure to present, all the way…”

“What is he going on about?” muttered Menjik, unsure what was happening in his own establishment from moment to moment.

“The Bratoga Sisters,” replied Prosus, “They’re not what I call talented.”

“They’re not!” exclaimed Menjik, “Are they bad singers, or perhaps they can’t dance?”

“They wrestle,” explained Prosus, “And they are bad singers as well.”

“The wrestle each other?” asked Menjik hopefully.

“That would be good,” agreed Prosus, “Would that I had eyes to see it. Better check to see if it’s in their contract.”

“What contract?” Menjik asked worriedly, but old King Prosus was just having a laugh at his expense so he drew him another ale and tried to enjoy the Bratogas.

Backstage, Dionysus had words for Ariadne.

“When did you learn to grind like that?”

“Was I good?” she asked, wide-eyed and out of breath.

“I ought to paddle your backside!” he told her,

“Careful,” she giggled.

There and then Dionysus made his choice. Ariadne was going all the way. The crazy harper put the desire in her head and now that she’d tasted it she’d be back for more.

“You were great,” he told her, “Hades and eternal fire great, but don’t ever do it that way again. From now on, do it like this.”