Excerpts from Chapter One
- KNOSSOS -
Two goats nibbled their way
around the small whitewashed house, to a spot just under Zoee Nikitas'
window. The little white one jumped up, stretched its neck way out, and
with all its might tried to get the last purple clover peeking out through
a crack in the wall. Its tiny bell ringled and jingled until she awoke.
She flung the covers aside and started getting dressed, selecting her favorite
crimson shirt and well worn blue jeans from the old oak armoire. She sat
down in front of the mirror and gently combed her long, black curly hair.
As she slowly worked out the knots and tangles, she looked herself straight
in the eye. Where will this excavation take us today? How far back in
time? Her deep brown eyes stared back.
Suddenly, that sensation of weightlessness welled
up and surged through her again. The reflection faded away and scenes from
her life appeared in the mirror -- her Cretan grandparents at the church
picnics along the Chicago lakefront, sailing into the sea-filled caldera
of Santorini twenty years ago and seeing the ruins at Akrotiri, her first
Minoan excavation, her recent discovery of the Knossos Cave -- the memories
glided simultaneously over the glass, each singing its part in melodious
resonance. She could just barely see the rhythm, the current of dimmer,
more distant images flowing swiftly beneath.
Her reflection returned and the images swirled
away. When she came back into focus, she sat calmly for a moment, centering
herself. She'd had similar experiences throughout her life, but recently,
they'd become more frequent and much more intense. She took a long, slow,
breath, and when she released it, a cloud of butterflies rose in her stomach,
fluttering fast. They lifted her up and carried her out the door in their
flurry; she barely managed to grab her jacket, tool kit and micro computer
on the way.
A red-orange sun was just creeping over Mt. Ida's
purple ridgeline as she walked past the taverna and down the quiet road.
Fine silver mist rose from the vineyards and olive groves, glistening in
the early rays, and a few high clouds glowed pink. She plucked an orange
from her favorite roadside tree, peeled it, and savored the sweet citrus
as she went.
She crossed through the empty parking lot, and
even though the first of many tourist busses had not yet arrived, Yanni's
souvenir stand was set up and ready to go. He sold everything, from sun
glasses and sweatsocks, to miniature pithoi and King Minos ashtrays. His
impressive collection of Greek worry beads were draped around the kiosk.
He held up a decorative plate with a sparkling
Palace of Knossos emblazoned across the front and grinned. "Kali medda
my friend, good morning!"
She walked over to him, and in her American Greek
said, "Yanni, you have been trying to sell me this plate for three months.
How can I convince you I don't want it?"
His eyes twinkled and he replied with a laugh,
"you cannot. I can plainly see the spirit of Knossos is in your blood."
"That may be so, but I'm still not interested
in the plate."
"We shall see."
"You keep trying, Yanni." She laughed, continuing
on through a small grove of trees surrounding the entrance to the ruins.
A cluster of little birds peeped wildly from some hidden perch in the branches
right over Costa's head. There he was, opening up the gate as he'd done
just about every day for the last fifty years. This short balding man had
never said a word to Zoee, but today he tipped his cap and wished her good
"It's a good day for it," he declared, picking
up a coin from the dusty walkway.
"Thank you, Costa! Say, my associates will be
here sometime this morning. Would you mind pointing them toward the dig?"
He nodded and waved her on.
She stepped through the gate and started across
the broad, stone plaza, which rambled past the remnants of the once great
palace. It had been uncovered and partially restored at the turn of the
century, and today, the red and black pillars and reconstructed rooms rose
like ghosts from the buried bricks and rubble. She'd excavated many ruins
and caves throughout the Aegean, but she could hardly believe she was about
to explore a new site so close to the heart of the Minoan civilization,
in the back yard of the Palace at Knossos.
Though it existed over three millennia ago, its
futuristic design and dazzling use of light, water, color and earth would
be a fantastic work of architecture in any time. Set on a hill near the
north shore of the island of Crete, Knossos was a crossroads between the
continents and cultures of what became Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
The Classical Greeks believed it had been the
center of a powerful kingdom ruled by King Minos, and the home of the dreaded
Minotaur, a half man, half bull creature who lived in a vast underground
labyrinth beneath the palace. As a tribute to Minos, every eighth year
King Aegeus of Athens was forced to send seven girls and seven boys as
sacrifices to the Minotaur, for as long as the beast was alive. One year,
Aegeus sent his son Theseus, in the hope that he could slay the Minotaur
and end their humiliation once and for all. King Minos' daughter Ariadne
took one look at the boy and fell in love. She couldn't bear to lose Theseus
to the horrible beast, so she made him a deal: she'd help him complete
his task if he promised to take her with him. He readily agreed. She gave
him a ball of thread and told him to fasten one end to the labyrinth entrance,
and let it unravel as he combed the hellish maze. He searched the winding
pathways, found the Minotaur and slew it with his sword, then followed
the magic thread safely back into the light of day.
Theseus and Ariadne fled the palace, narrowly
escaping King Minos' legion of soldiers. They ran for the harbor, found
his ship and set sail for Athens immediately. Unfortunately, Theseus' love
for Ariadne was not undying, and he deserted her on the island of Naxos
on his way home. But woe, in his haste, he forgot to lower the black sail
and raise the white as a sign to his father he'd survived his Herculean
task. Upon seeing the black sail, King Aegeus threw himself into the sea
in misery, thinking his son was dead.
Zoee believed there was a kernel of truth in the
old Greek myths, but she also knew they were written 1,000 years after
the Minoans had vanished. Through archeology, she could go beyond the tales
and interpret the past from the artifacts themselves. The statuary, frescoes,
pottery and architecture painted a very different picture of this lost
She moved on past the ruins and started down a
gentle slope. Dew drops sparkled on the field of dark green brush, and
course dirt crunched beneath her feet. Up ahead, a morning dove landed
on a limestone boulder and welcomed her with a "coo."
At the sound of its song, she froze in her tracks.
For an instant, she was surrounded by a dense grove of lush green trees.
A creek bubbled through a cavern far beneath her feet, and bright sunlight
illuminated giant green ferns. The dove was perched on a knobby old oak
nearby. When it cooed once again, it broke the spell, returning to the
"No wait!" she called out. But the trees disappeared
and she was back on the rocky hillside, staring at the small gray bird.
"Thank you Bird, for bringing me a glimpse," she
said, trying to ground herself. "What more can you show me today?"
The dove just blinked and flew away.
"That's okay, Bird." She looked past the big rock
to the dig site, which at this point was nothing more than a roped-off
area thirty feet in diameter. "I know where the answers lie. Down there,
in that cave...."
"...Okay, Vasilios, whenever you're ready!" Zoee
He aimed the remote and the crew firmly took hold
of the leather harness straps. "Okay, sigah sigah..."
The hydraulic lifts slowly raised the cyclopean
stone, and the men carefully guided it away from the passage entrance.
"Bravo!" exclaimed Zoee. She tentatively moved
toward the opening, and placed her hand on the cool limestone. She bowed
her head, and silently asked, Mother Earth, please allow us to enter
this inner sanctum. She patted the rock, held her breath and stepped
through. Her cave light trickled down a ten-foot passage, and forms appeared
on the walls.
"Frescoes!" she gasped. "The tunnel is completely
covered with them, and they're intact. Antelopes, butterflies, birds and
bees, cavorting in flowery plants and trees! This is fantastic!" She felt
a tiny ripple of energy pass by in the surrounding space. "Jesus! A Linear
A inscription! It leads down to a chamber at the bottom."
She cautiously led them down the broad greenstone
steps, and into the inner chamber. It was about eight feet high, ten feet
across and roughly circular. Tall red and white lilies were painted around
the cave. In the center of the back wall, two golden bulls with long graceful
horns attended a round marble chest, sparkling on the earthen floor between
them. Five rock crystal lamps encircled the container, which stood about
two feet high. As they tip toed closer, their beams illuminated a glittering
gemstone butterfly inlaid on the lid.
Fiona clutched Zoee's arm. "It's magnificent!"
"Incredible," whispered Nizam. "The lamps are
from the New Palace Period, but I've never seen anything like this vessel.
It appears to have a removable lid!"
"Yes. It does," agreed Zoee, after analyzing it
closely. "What do you think, Vasilios? Can we safely remove it?"
He scrutinized the artifact with an engineer's
eye. "As long as we're careful, I don't see why not."
Zoee and Vasilios each firmly grasped it. As her
fingers touched the cool stone, she thought she heard Echo singing, set
sail! "Oh-kay. On the count of three. Enna, thio, tria."
They lifted it ever so slowly, and gently set
it on the floor of the cave. Once it was safe in gravity's care, the four
of them knelt around the archive and peered inside.
"It's a Linear A tablet!" Zoee whispered. She
gingerly reached in, and carefully removed the marble disc. A long, gemstone
snake spiraled around the stone, and in between each coil, were the symbols
in gold relief. For a moment, they went out of focus and swirled toward
the center of the tablet -- a whirling vortex pulling her closer inward.
In her heart she knew this was the key.
She gently passed it to Vasilios, who said a silent
prayer and kissed the stone. He handed it to Nizam, who rested it on his
lap and gently touched the inscription with his long, slender fingers.
When Fiona received the tablet, she contemplated its delicate symbols,
slowly rotating the disc in each direction. She then passed it back to
"Here's a symbol I don't recognize, and here's
another one! I need to get these into my database right away."
"You go on," Fiona suggested. "I'm going to have
a look around here. See ya' later so!"
"Me too," Nizam agreed. "These frescoes are calling
"I will go tell the crew of this stupendous find!"
Vasilios announced enthusiastically.
Zoee carefully carried the tablet out of the depths
of Earth and into the light of Day.
She placed the elegant disc on the worktent table,
wishing the stone voices would speak. She'd been trying to decipher Linear
A for almost a decade, extensively analyzing each of the 358 small stone
and clay fragments which had preserved the ancient script. By comparing
the 73 known characters to other ancient languages, she was able to create
a series of five decryption matrices. She'd run the program a number of
times and she knew she was close -- if she could only find a few missing
She stared into the tablet and scrutinized each
one, counting a total of eleven she didn't recognize. Then she started
again from the beginning. She came across a string of three characters
and was suddenly stopped by a flash of understanding. Something about an
emergence, she thought, tracing her finger over them. She quickly set up
her micro computer, and using a hand held scanner, loaded the text into
With a few more keystrokes, she logged on to the
Yale University mainframe, downloaded the text file and ran her application.
Her matrices appeared on the screen, and the Linear A characters streamed
by, cycling through, cycling through....
The indicator light finally stopped flashing.
"C'mon! Let's see it!" she said out loud, as words appeared on the screen.
We are the people of Keftea....
Then, without warning, a diamond of light appeared
in front of the screen. It suddenly expanded, completely engulfing her,
and the words became a vague impression on her mind.
A harmonic ringing saturated the air, and Nizam
and Fiona came scrambling out of the cave and up the ladder. They could
see Zoee surrounded by an oval of light. Waves of energy emanated from
the phenomenon, pulsating through them.
"What is it?" Nizam yelled.
"I haven't the faintest idea!" Fiona yelled back.
"We've got to save Zoee!" Vasilios cried. But
before they could do anything, the oval suddenly collapsed, flashing out
of existence. "Zoee! Zoee!" he called out frantically.
"Good God in heaven, she's gone!" Fiona gasped,
"and so is the tent!"
They looked at Nizam, who was shaking his head
in astonishment. "She just vanished. Incredible. What could have happened
"Is she dead?" Fiona asked, as tears welled up
in her eyes. Vasilios gently put his arm around her shoulder.
"Look," Nizam pointed, "the artifact appears to
be unharmed." He cautiously approached it and saw the screen. "And her
computer is intact. Good Lord!"
"What is it?" Vasilios asked, walking over with
"See for yourselves."
They peered over Nizam's shoulder.
"Jaysus! She's deciphered the tablet!" Fiona exclaimed,
wiping the tears from her face.
"Holy Mother of Jesus! She's cracked the code!"
Fiona read the words aloud, "We are the people
of Keftea. We record our way of life so our descendants may know how we
The three of them huddled around as Nizam scrolled
down the screen. They continued reading the text, until the flash of a
camera broke their train of thought.
Vasilios whirled around to see a wave of tourists
descending upon them. "It's going to be a mob scene here in a matter of
"We've got to protect the tablet," Nizam declared.
"If it falls into the wrong hands, we could be facing a Return of the Dead
"We could take it to my grandmother's village,"
Vasilios suggested. "It's not far, and I think it would be safe there."
"That's a good idea," Fiona concurred. "Why don't
I just go with it then. But first," she grabbed a blank disc, "we must
save Zoee's data. Let's send a copy to our e-mail addresses too, just in
"All right," Nizam agreed. "I'll stay here with
the crew and protect the site."
Inside the light, Zoee felt curiously peaceful
as the phenomenon surged through her. She saw her colleagues emerge from
the cave, but then they vanished, and she felt herself moving forward.
Images of galaxies and nebulae filled her mind, and points of colored light
appeared in the glow around her. They raced by, faster and faster, streaking
together, becoming lines which curved and twisted, forming endless and
self-similar shapes. She felt herself being swept up in the patterns, merging
with the currents of the Cosmos....
Copyright 1998 - Heidi Neale &