2004: An Olympic Odyssey - a great
way to learn about Greek Mythology -
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© 1998 - Heidi Neale & Nick Manolukas

Excerpts from Chapter One


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. She waved.

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 luck.

"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 civilization.

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 limestone boulder.

"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 said expectantly.

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 Zoee.

"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 to me."

"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 characters.

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 her database.

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 to her?"

"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 Fiona.

"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 lived...."

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 minutes!"

"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 Sea Scrolls!"

"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 case."

"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 & Nick Manolukas

2004: An Olympic Odyssey - a great
way to learn about Greek Mythology -
order your copy now! >>>
Only $14.95