Categories

The Blind Harper Of Kriti Pt 3: Home Is Where The Art Is

Two weeks later Ariadne disembarked at Knossos. She had only heard of Knossos. It was a new city on the coast of Kriti. It was just an idea before she left so she was as excited as a tourist. No one could mistake her for a famous person let alone a seasoned entertainer.

She had no desire to go to the Lasithi Valley on foot or even horseback. She watched with glee as balloons bobbed like apples in the sky.

An unfamiliar, running woman was the first look that many had had of her for years. She raced down the streets of Knossos, on bare earth and through construction sites, her eyes on the gently swaying balloons. She came closer and saw many more flat on the ground waiting for Icarus to attend them.

“Stand back,” he said curtly, “You never know if it’ll go cobra on ya.”

“Cobra?” she asked the mildly handsome apprentice.

The balloon he was filling popped and sat up just like a cobra head.

“See what I mean?” he told her, “You always gotta be careful around these things.”

“What is it?” she asked coyly, “I mean, what’s it for?”

“Don’t tell me you’ve never been up in a balloon before!” he exclaimed.

“All right,” she replied, waiting in the heat for an invitation.

“Do you want a ride?” he asked, thinking that maybe she liked him.

“Yes,” she replied, and with her eyes wide she came running forward.

“I’m taking this one up,” he said, “Daedalus won’t mind.”

“Let’s not tell him,” she encouraged, “Let’s make it our secret.”

“Why? I’m sure he’ll have no objection…” he began, but that’s how she wanted it.

“I’m Icarus,” he said rather awkwardly, “What’s yours?”

“What’s my what?” she giggled.

“What’s your name,” replied Icarus, sure that the world had just ended.

“You’ll have to guess,” she laughed.

“Ariadne!” he blurted.

She was crestfallen.

“How did you know?” she asked him.

“Every girl wants to be Ariadne,” he told her.

“Really?” she said, perking up again, “Who do the boys want to be?”

“The husband of Ariadne,” he laughed. The look on her face was impenetrable.

“You too?” she wondered.

“Like I have a chance of sleeping with the king’s daughter,” he smirked.

“You might,” she said.

“Let’s not talk about her,” said Icarus, “I’d rather talk about you.”

“Really?” she asked, as coyly as possible.

“Of course! So why don’t you tell me your name,” he wondered.

“Ariadne,” she said again, “It really is. Do you think you can take me home?”

An hour later they were in the air.

Ariadne had never felt so good. She was free, and flying, and she had the attention of a presentable young man who had no idea who she was.

He was good looking; better than he knew, anyway. He was smart, but not too smart. He was clever in a way that some men are, like he could understand anything made by man. He was polite but not sweetly so. He didn’t want to do everything for her and he even gave her the steering port lines when he had to stoke the brazier.

His scraggly beard made him look younger than he was and his stories were the edge of your seat kind of stuff, especially his encounter with a sea monster.

He didn’t tell it like he was a hero, or a victim, or some other special person. He was just a frightened boy who’d fallen into the deepest catfish pool in the world. Best of all she knew it was true. Here was the famous Icarus, apprentice of the world’s smartest man and he acted like a nobody. It was refreshing.

For two hours they laughed and talked in the sky. By choice she mostly listened. She wasn’t ready to give him any clues and Icarus wanted to tell her all about himself.

“You don’t need Daedalus,” she said at last.

“Maybe not, but I haven’t learned everything he has to teach me. Anyway, he needs me. He’s the kind of guy who can’t find his sandals. It’s not like I’m a regular apprentice. It’s more like we’re partners. This is my balloon we’re riding in,” he said proudly.

“Daedalus doesn’t own you?” she asked, impressed.

“Noooo!” he said, shaking his head, “He got me from the temple when I was six on a minor’s contract. I cost him two bags of gold! He was afraid I was going to leave him when I turned sixteen. So afraid, in fact, that when I did turn sixteen he wouldn’t admit it for a year. I’ve never left him, but I can whenever I want to. It think about it sometimes.”

“Where would you go?” she asked him, “Sarmatia?”

“Good Goddess no, I’m not going anywhere near a war!” he exclaimed, “I don’t know that I’d go anywhere. I like it here. Kriti reminds me of Antallis, especially Knossos. Wait until you see what we’re gonna to do next!”

“What is it?”

“I can’t tell you,” he replied, “That old bugger of a king’ll kill me this time!”

“Really?” she wondered, concern in her voice, “What did you do?”

“You don’t wanna know,” he said sheepishly.

“If you don’t wanna tell me,” she said with a practiced aloofness.

“It’s not that,” he explained, “King Minos wants things a certain way. He’s the real power around here. Since the Steward of Cybele put Circe away things have changed.”

“How?”

“Well, I wouldn’t want to be caught alone with his daughter. He’d kill me for sure!”

“No he wouldn’t,” she replied.

“That’s what he told me,” he insisted, “‘Icarus, you idiot. Don’t ever let me catch you around my daughter or I’ll skin you alive!’”

“He didn’t say that.”

“Well, close enough,” he insisted, “I can’t say I didn’t deserve it though.”

“What did you do?” she asked again.

“I caused an accident. A really big one. They’re still trying to get the wine stains off the floor,” he said meekly.

She put her hand to her mouth, but she couldn’t help laughing.

“Where?” she asked when she was able.

“In the decanting room. I cost him half the vintage at least, maybe more. I offered to pay for it, but he just stared at me, like I wasn’t worth one Amphorae and it’s true, I wasn’t. Now whenever he sees me he calls me your grace.”

“He does?” she giggled, clapping her hands.

“You think it’s funny?” he frowned, “How would you like to be hated by the king?”

“He doesn’t hate you,” she laughed, “If he did he wouldn’t tease you. He probably feels bad for getting so mad at you.”

“I’m glad you think so,” he replied.

“I know so, silly. Did you think these were fake?” she asked, showing him her rings.

“You really are Ariadne,” he said shrilly, “O My Goddess, I hope I haven’t…”

“You haven’t…” she said cheerfully, “Can I steer for awhile?”

Happily, he handed her the lines.

She had told no one she was coming so no one was there to greet here.

“Come back tomorrow,” she told her new suitor, “We’ll have a party!”

Icarus was already rising. The loss of his passenger made it harder to stay near to the ground and he didn’t want to wait long lest the king should see him.

The king did see him but he thought nothing of it. Daedalus often used balloons as a quick means of transport from Knossos. Then he saw a familiar yet unfamiliar woman come walking to the palace.

Everything was different. Ariadne couldn’t even find the front door. There was a side door where it had been but the old house was tiny compared to the additions.

“Who goes there?” challenged a familiar voice.

“Ambicatus?” she replied, “Don’t you recognize me? I’m Ariadne.”

Amibicatus squinted through his fifty year spectacles.

“Come in, come in. I’ll show to your room.”

“I have a room?”

“Yes, and a nice one too, once I get your father’s easel put away.”

“I don’t want to impose,” she told him.

“Since the Great Ladies were silenced he hasn’t had time to paint, and the black priest won’t do business with the queen. The only reason she hasn’t been sent to Aeaea with your Aunt Circe is that he needs your father’s good will so don’t make him angry!”

“The black priest. Is that Helios Hyperion?” she asked.

“One in the same,” he replied, “Pray you don’t meet up with him.”

“I have nothing to fear from Helios. He and I are good friends. He comes to all my shows in Iolcos. I’ve had tea on his veranda many times.”

“Princess Ariadne,” replied Ambicatus, “your father will not want to hear that!”

When he had gone she thought she was alone. She looked up and was startled to see her mother. Remembering that her mother was the queen she quickly rose to her feet.

“Sit down, we don’t do that kind of thing at home,” she smiled.

“I would have thought papa would have come to see me,” frowned Ariadne.

“He’s not used to who you’ve become,” cautioned her mother, “Give him time.”

“Who have I become?”

“The way the bards tell it you’re a great diva; haughty, demanding, hard to please.”

“Don’t listen to the bards. They’ve never got anything good to say about anyone but themselves,” laughed Ariadne.

“Did you sing naked on stage in Iolcos?”

“Yes…no, I was painted and the lights were low.”

“I suppose I’m not surprised, given your choice of songs,” observed her mother

“Look, mom, no one wants to hear a happy little ditty about a guy who’s got it made. You gotta spice it up; give him a crutch, make him a beggar. You gotta make a working man feel like he’s not got it so bad after all. Anything else is professional suicide.”

“So you strut like a tramp! I don’t approve, Ariadne. Your father doesn’t either. If it doesn’t change you won’t be welcome here.”

Shocked, Ariadne could only lay on her bed and cry.

She awoke the next day to the sound of cicadas. She’d cried herself to sleep and slept through the morning. If the cicadas were singing it must be mid-afternoon.

Finding clothes more suitable for a princess she dressed and went in search of a meal.

“Hmmmmmmm?” sang Lapraxus, “The winsome daughter awakes.”

“Not to hear my mother tell it,” Ariadne complained.

“Queen Pasiphae does not accept the changing of days,” said Lapraxus sadly, “Great Ladies everywhere are loathe to give up power, yet the hand of Helios Hyperion sweeps all before it. What does a young princess know of the heart of Marduk? Hmmmmmmm?”

“I know that if a monster had hosted him we would all be tethered to the rocks of the earth. You should be thankful everyday that Helios is a good man.”

“Hmmmmmmm!” sang Lapraxus, “Good counsel I have given, though neither queen nor king understand what you know. You hear the words of Cybele. Do not disregard them if you are to be the Queen that Kriti will need to have.”

“Who wants a cabaret singer for a queen?” she chuckled.

“Cybele does,” answered Lapraxus, “Go now. Your suitor awaits you in the garden.”

“Icarus is here?” she asked.

“I thought it might cheer you up,” he told her, “Play your games but remember; he is a toy. He is not your toy. You may have to give him back.”

Pondering the Steward of Kriti’s strange words she took her breakfast to the garden where a small audience was waiting for her.

“Party!” she said, recalling her promise, “Let’s start with a story. Icarus, you first.”

Later in the afternoon her father came around.

“Papa!” shouted Ariadne, “You’ve got to hear this!”

He looked to where his daughter was ringed by friends.

“It’s her homecoming,” Minos reminded his steward, “We’ll talk later.”

Lapraxus bowed and made a sign of two, which is when he expected to see his king: in two hours. Minos didn’t know, sometimes, who was really in charge.

He wandered over to where his daughter was holding court. It had grown as the day progressed. Lapraxus was taking an interest in her, as was the idiot Icarus. He remembered telling him to stay away from the palace. Just as he was about to the have Icarus thrown out Ariadne kissed his cheek.

“What’s this?” asked the king, and flashing a deadly smile.

“Icarus was saying how he held off a sea monster with just a lance. Tell it again,” encouraged Ariadne.

“It was a catfish as big as a man,” he began, “Bigger!”

When he was finished, the king had a few questions.

“Son, I don’t want to embarrass you so let’s hear what Daedalus has to say about it.”

The doctor was summoned from a discussion on thermal compaction and he arrived quite in a huff.

“Some wine?” offered Minos.

When it was poured he implored the doctor to tell the story of Icarus and the sea monster from his own point of view. If anything, Daedalus made Icarus look even more a hero.

Minos listened for the next two hours. At the end of it he took Icarus aside and gave him some advice.

“You are a free man,” he told him, “Divorce yourself from Daedalus. He speaks well of you but he is not your friend. As for the wine: we all have bad days. As for Ariadne: you will never have her. Find someone else who will make you happy.”

“Yes, my lord,” bowed Icarus, “Thank you, my lord.”

When next he saw his daughter it was a tense meeting.

“Hello, daddy,” she said.

He wanted to see a red haired little girl still learning to be eleven. Instead there was woman, full figured and world traveled at eighteen years old.

Even her clothing belied her lifestyle. She wore sheer fabrics and pumps from Iolcos that favored her muscular calves. Her hips were wide and curvaceous and she built her look around them. She had the body of a dancer, the chest of a singer and the eyes of a seductress.

“You come home splashed in paint and reeking of sex! What am I to think?” berated her father, “This is the Princess of Kriti? This is to whom I will entrust my people? You try my soul, Ariadne.”

The princess sat stoically with no expression crossing her face.

“You are not a queen, you are an entertainer,” he told her, “Why did you come back?”

Ariadne was devastated. He had never spoken to her like that, not even as a child.

“I am not reeking of sex,” she said calmly, “Men are not one of my bad habits.”

“I should have known it. Women like you favor women.”

“Hardly,” she answered, her contempt showing.

Her father was suddenly sad, because on top of it all she hadn’t even wallowed in the decadence that was driving her down.

“Truthfully?”

“Uncle Dion hasn’t let me out of his sight in five years. He’s your best friend and he thinks you hate him.”

“If you’re not a tart why do you act like one?” he asked, ignoring all else.

“Because I get paid really well for it,” she said.

“Don’t lie to your father,” he told her, “I know you’re living from day to day.”

“For the art then,” she added.

“Is it art to prance around the stage with nothing on singing stupid songs about men who can’t consummate their marriages? That’s the harper talking, not you. If you want art there’s no greater art than running a country.”

“I write my own songs! I write what I see! I write what sells! Do you want me stay home? I’ll stay home! Go back to Iolcos? I’ll go back! Just tell me and I’ll do it!”

“I need you here,” he said finally, “but I don’t need a child star so if you want to sing, go sing. If you want to be Queen of Kriti learn to be a Princess first. It’s your choice.”

Ariadne was about to choose but her father stopped her.

“Don’t tell me now. Tell me in a week. Until then try not to embarrass yourself.”

He gave his daughter a kiss and left her to think about things.

Three weeks later Princess Ariadne was back in the band.