Excerpt from Chapter 1
Thera 1672 BC
The temple of our beloved Potnia was on fire. Our priests and priestesses filled bowls and buckets from the stream nearby and lobbed the muddy water at the blaze, but the snapping gold and blue flames roared higher. I couldn’t move, shouts and screams rose around me. Glowing ashes swarmed the air like angry bees. My mother ran to me, her skirt blackened with patches of soot, some still smoldering. She beat at them with her red hands while screams escaped my lips as I reached my arms to her. She lifted me up, squeezing me until a cough and whimper of pain burst from me. Her last words filled my ears as if I were under the great waters of the Ancient Sea:
“Hurry, Kynna, we must find Grandmother. You will go with her to the mainland. Hurry!”
She locked her arm in mine and pulled me, my feet lifting off the ground. I closed my eyes and searched the images in my mind, gathering words to ask my questions. My voice barely carried over the screams and roaring flames. My mother’s sweat dripped on my arms and blew like mist in my face; sweet like lavender and honey, spring garlic, and the fresh earth dug to plant barley. I spoke as loud as unbelief would allow me.
“Mother, why is the temple on fire? Why aren’t our friends helping us put it out?”
Our friends were Mycenaeans. Since I could remember, they had joined us at the market, at meals and celebrations, and even in worship at the temple on honored days. They were friends I rode horses with and swam with late at night. But I couldn’t find them now; they seemed to have disappeared. And none of them helped put out the fire. Some of Mother’s friends even stood and watched it burn.
“Kynna, you must stay with Grandmother. She will take you to safety on the mainland. You must make it to Arispa, we have family there.”
“But our family is here. I know no family in Arispa, we’ve never gone there. We’ve traveled to almost every island when Father was alive, but I never heard of this place called Arispa.”
“It is the homeland of your grandmother. She will tell you more as you travel.”
Mother stopped in front of our home, her chest heaving and sucking in air. Smoke billowed out from the windows in grimy, black clouds, rising in my face, taking my breath. Mother pushed me on toward the harbor. I saw her then through the hazy sunlight—my grandmother Anais, scuttling toward us with a large satchel over her left shoulder and water pouches strapped over her right.
“Grandmother!” I called to her over the crowds moving toward the harbor. She moved in step with Mother and I over the stone slabs of the street until my feet touched the wood pier. We had to steady our legs when it lurched with the weight of many travelers waiting to board boats.
We had just touched the edge of the longboat when the air erupted in women’s screams and shouts of men bellowing orders. Mother pushed us into the boat. I felt her burnt hand slide across my skin, hot and wet. I looked back to see her grimace of pain and eyes full of fear.
“Mother, please come with us,” I screamed at her again. “Mother, please come!” A man rose up behind her and yanked her back from the pier. A scream lodged in my throat. “Mother!” But he pulled at her until the crowd sucked her in. Grandmother braced my shoulders and turned me around. . .