Ariadne Unraveled: A Mythic Retelling
By Zenobia Neil
Publication Date: 7th July 2021
Publisher: Hypatia Books
Page Length: 345 Pages
Genre: Mythic retelling/ Historical Romance
Ariadne, high priestess of Crete, grew up duty-bound to the goddess Artemis. If she takes a husband, she must sacrifice him to her goddess after no more than three years of marriage. For this reason, she refuses to love any man, until a mysterious stranger arrives on her island.
The stranger is Dionysus, the new god of wine who empowers women and breaks the rules of the old gods. He came to Crete seeking vengeance against Artemis. He never expected to fall in love.
Furious that Dionysus would dare meddle with her high priestess, Artemis threatens to kill Ariadne if Dionysus doesn’t abandon her. Heartbroken, the new god leaves Crete, vowing to become better than the Olympians.
From the bloody labyrinth and the shadows of Hades to the halls of Olympus, Dionysus must find a way to defy Artemis and unite with his true love. Forced to betray her people, Ariadne discovers her own power to choose between the goddess she pledged herself to and the god she loves.
“Little Liber,” Silenus said, embracing Dionysus. The old satyr smelled of sheep and weak beer.
“It has been too long, Silenus. Come, let’s go to the market. I’ll buy you a cup of beer and a skewer of octopus fresh from the sea. Everything I’ve eaten here is delicious. Can you feel the magic of this place?”
Silenus cupped Dionysus’s cheek. “It is so good to see you, Little Liber. I meant to come back to you on Nysa. When I returned, you were gone, and every place I went, I heard tales of your deeds—and misdeeds. How you have grown.” He took in Dionysus’s purple robe, the thyrsus clutched in his hand, the small wineskin on his belt, and the crown of myrtle in his hair. “You no longer doubt your divinity, do you?”
“Not the way I did before.” He led Silenus out of the port town. They followed the road next to the river full of smaller boats laden with cargo. “This is how they transport the oil and grain to the storehouse under the great palace-temple of Knossos. One day, they will export wine.”
“Of course, Little Liber, of course.” Silenus noticed his first woman then and became transfixed, watching her walk toward them and then past them.
“It is not considered polite to stare. You are in their land now,” Dionysus said.
“The women here do not cover their breasts.”
“No. They reveal them proudly, for they are part of their power.”
Silenus glanced about, taking in the Minoans around them. “The men don’t wear much either. What fine forms they have.”
“They are a skillful, artistic people. This place is full of acrobats, dancers, divers, and bull leapers. I’m glad you got my message to meet here.”
“Oh, yes.” Silenus started to stare at an older woman walking toward them. He caught himself and turned his attention back to Dionysus. “I looked for you in Brauron. I heard nothing of you when I asked. What occurred there?”
It was hard for Dionysus not to be truthful, but he was not ready to tell his foster father the whole story yet. “Let’s get something to eat first.”
“And drink,” Silenus added.
Having been in Crete a few days, Dionysus had sampled several of the food stalls and found a favorite. He ordered skewered octopus, which was deliciously salted and paired perfectly with a cup of beer. They took the stools the place offered for an extra price and sat in the half shade.
“What an amazing city,” Silenus said, taking in the grand buildings and squinting up at Knossos. “What is that on top of the building?”
“The horns of consecration. They’re both crescent moons and bull horns. Both are sacred here.”
“Ah, this is delicious.” Silenus sucked the octopus from his skewer. “Tell me all, Little Liber. What adventures have you had?”
“After you left Nysa, I waited for you or Hermes to return. The nymphs said I should stay, that they had been instructed to hide me from Hera. You know I never really believed them, and I grew tired of being in the same place for so long.
“I went to Thebes, to meet my mother’s sister. She didn’t believe I was her nephew at first, but she saw a resemblance in my eyes, so she offered to take me in. It was intriguing to live with them, and all was well until her husband went mad and began to whip us all. We had done nothing to rouse his anger. He had been god-struck. In a panic, we ran toward the sea.” He didn’t tell Silenus how terrified he had been, how he regretted not listening to the nymphs, how he wished he had worn girls’ clothes and never left Mount Nysa. He didn’t ask Silenus where he had been.
“I jumped off a cliff, wondering whether I was going to die.”
“But I’ve always said you are the son of Zeus and immortal.”
“Isn’t every bastard told the same?” Dionysus had finished the beer and needed a better drink for this discussion. He pulled out the small wineskin on his waist and poured some wine into his empty cup, doing the same for Silenus.
“Ah, yes. How I’ve missed this divine brew. Little Liber, how can you doubt your divinity after a single sip of this?”
“The moment I truly believed that Zeus was my father was the moment I didn’t die in the depths of the Ionian Sea. The nereid Thetis rescued me. She hid me in her grotto where she shared many secrets. In her depths, with her blue-black hair swirling around us, she told me about the other gods and suggested I meet Hephaestus. She had rescued the Smith God when Hera threw him down from Olympus. The God of the Forge was not at first friendly, but after I gave him some wine, he became vivacious and jolly. He said if I ever needed to seek him on Lemnos, I would always be welcomed there.”
Silenus’s attention was drawn away from Dionysus by the farmers who had come from the villages to inspect the livestock from Attica. “I spent all my time on the boat with those sheep. I do hope they go to good homes.”
“I’m sure they will. Where have you been all this time, Silenus?”
“Ah.” Silenus glanced down into his empty clay cup. “I’ve had women and raised families. How long has it been, Little Liber?”
“I don’t know, generations, centuries? Who’s to say?”
“Yes, I buried three wives and outlived all my children. After that, I just traveled. Sometimes it’s easier to live with the animals.”
Grief washed over Silenus’s face. Dionysus had forgotten this sorrow that overcame his foster father after drinking.
“Little Liber, I was not a good father to you. I never meant to leave Mount Nysa. You know how easily I lose my way. I never forgot you, and I kept trying to return, but there was always a beautiful woman in the way and then children.” He passed his hand over his face, wiping away tears.
“You were a better father to me than my own,” Dionysus said, trying to keep the bitterness from his voice. Two women sitting nearby were staring at Silenus, and Dionysus did not want to draw attention.
“Come,” Dionysus said.
“I’m sorry.” Silenus stood up, upending his stool.
Dionysus wrapped his arm around Silenus’s shoulder and led him away from the marketplace, away from the city. The old satyr needed to be in nature. Once among the trees, he would recover his spirits.
Without thinking, Dionysus returned to the meadow where he had encountered Ariadne. He smiled at the memory of her pleasure and how her strength had surprised him. He had not expected to be so drawn to a high priestess. Never had he met one so powerful.
“Ah, this place smells lovely,” Silenus sniffed, inhaling the scent of wild rosemary, sage, and thyme.
On the edge of the meadow, a grove of trees beckoned. While on Crete, Dionysus had spied finely tended olive groves and vast fields of organized farmland, but here, the trees grew as they wished. Once beneath the shade of the branches, Silenus sighed, as if the large oak leaves would take all his cares away. The wind blew gently through the branches.
“I did not mean to leave you, Little Liber, and am so glad to see you again.”
“You as well, Silenus. I need your help here teaching the people how to make wine and…”
“I am weary from my journey. A nap is what I need, and there is the perfect spot.” He staggered to the shade of a plane tree, made his cloak into a pillow, and lay down.
Dionysus stared at his already sleeping foster father.
He wanted to tell Silenus what had happened in Brauron and the real reason he had initially come to Crete. Perhaps he should keep the shame to himself.
Zenobia Neil was named after an ancient warrior queen who fought against the Romans. She writes historical romance about the mythic past and Greek and Roman gods having too much fun. Visit her at ZenobiaNeil.com